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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, April 30) - The Samoa Supreme
Court has declared that the banishment of nine people from the village of
Falealupo last year was unconstitutional.

The nine, members of a bible study group, were removed from the
village after a series of confrontations extending back to 1987.

The chiefs, who had given the group permission for a weekly
bible study during the 1980s, became angry when the group extended its
activities to Sunday religious meetings.

The chiefs tried to ban them originally in 1987, but a
reconciliation led to peace for 12 years.

However in 1999 the chiefs won the support of the Lands and
Titles Court which said the 1987 ban was still valid.

The court later jailed some of the group for contempt.

But in a 14 page ruling, the Chief Justice says the banishment
of the villagers because of their religious beliefs is a violation of their
constitutional right to freedom of religion.

May 1, 2003

Radio New Zealand International: 

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