MAJURO (Marianas Variety, Jan. 10) - Suspended Marshall Islands Chief Justice Charles Henry is objecting to delays in his cheating trial.

He said this central Pacific’s nation's High Court is violating his constitutional rights to a speedy trial.

Henry, an American, is charged with four counts of cheating relating to alleged travel expense abuses. His trial, originally set to open on Monday, has now been put off until a February 28 status conference.

He was charged in October with seven counts of cheating. But a mid-November hearing resulted in the dismissal of three of the charges.

In a motion filed through Public Defender Daniel Goundar last week, Henry said the High Court changed the original trial date because it better suited the schedule of Justice Arthur Ngiraklsong.

Justice Ngiraklsong, the chief justice of the Palau Supreme Court, was brought in specially to hear this case.

Balancing court commitments with Henry’s legal rights to a speedy trial, the constitutional rights must prevail, Henry told Ngiraklsong.

But the trial was further delayed in response to a motion by recently hired special prosecutor David Strauss. He told Ngiraklsong he needed more time to investigate the charges and Henry’s accusations against the Marshall Islands published in the Baltimore Sun.

Henry said that his critical statements to the Baltimore Sun newspaper were an exercise of his democratic rights as an American citizen.

So were his letters to American congressmen urging delay in approving a US$1 billion funding package for the Marshall Islands until amendments are imposed that prevent human rights abuses, he said.

Goundar filed a similar motion in December. He objected to Ngiraklsong’s delay of the trial on the ground that the law provides that the defense has five days to reply to any motion. But he said it was not given an opportunity to do so after Strauss filed his delay motion.

Ngiraklsong rejected Goundar’s motion, and the trial awaits a February 28 meeting to decide trial dates.

January 13, 2003

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