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APIA, Samoa (July 29, 1999 – PACNEWS)---Eletise Leafa Vitale, 34, appeared in the Samoa Magistrates court today charged with allegedly assassinating Minister of Public Works Luagalau Levaula Kamu two weeks ago.

Vitale was refused bail and is being held in custody. He will appear in court again on August 6.

The 34-year old Malie villager did not enter a plea before Judge Andrew Bray Cameron.

Defense counsel Toleafoa Solomona Toailoa sought bail on the grounds that Vitale was married with a young wife and three young children.

Toleafoa told the court the defendant was the family's sole breadwinner, who ran a plantation and a cattle farm.

The Attorney General Office's prosecutor, George Latu, in arguing for custody, said murder was a serious charge, punishable by death. Latu vigorously opposed bail saying an illegal firearm was used, which resulted in the death of a Government minister. A .223 caliber rifle is believed to have been used.

"The deceased was a Cabinet minister," Latu said, "and therefore certain implications are involved, including the safety of the accused himself."

Before this morning’s proceedings, Judge Cameron remarked, "The proceedings are of public interest, and careful consideration should be given to the safety of the defendant."

Eleven police officers, including the Commissioner of Police Asi James Blakelock and Superintendent Patu Ativalu, are still investigating the fatal shooting of Luagalau. The weapon used has not been recovered.

Vitale was brought to the courthouse under heavy police guard. Outside hundreds of onlookers waited to catch a glimpse of the man charged with the killing of the Samoan Cabinet minister.

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