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APIA, Samoa (January 18, 2000 – Radio Australia)---The trial of two cabinet ministers accused of killing another minister and plotting the assassination of the Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi has opened in the capital, Apia.

Minister of Public Works Luagalau Levaula Kamu was shot in the back on July 16 at a function to mark the 20th anniversary of the ruling Human Rights Protection Party.

The following month, Alatise Vitale, the 34-year-old son of Women's Affairs Minister Leafa Vitale, pleaded guilty to murder and was sentenced to death by hanging.

His death sentence has since been commuted to life imprisonment by Head of State Malietoa Tanumafili II. Alatise will now be eligible for parole after 10 years.

Leafa Vitale and Communications Minister Toi Aukuso were also arrested but they have pleaded not guilty and went on trial today charged with the murder of the minister.

The trial, which is expected to last three months, is being held before Australian Justice Andrew Wilson.

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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