TONGA ACTIVIST CLEARED IN PUBLICATION OF ROYAL LETTER

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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, May 20) - Tonga's leading
democracy campaigner has been acquitted of sedition and forgery charges in a
high profile case over allegations of money laundering by King Taufa'ahau Tupou
IV.

Member of Parliament 'Akilisi Pohiva and fellow MP 'Isileli Pulu
and Pohiva's son Po'oi faced a total of 11 charges for their publication last
year of a 1991 Palace Office letter dealing with the king's finances.

The Tongan government – the Pacific’s sole remaining
monarchy - claimed the letter was a forgery, but a jury in the Tongan High Court
today acquitted the three of all charges.

"I am very pleased with this verdict and what the jury
did," Pohiva said from Nuku'alofa.

He said he would continue to press for full disclosure of the
royal finances.

Pohiva's Tongan Human Rights and Democracy Movement newsletter, Kele'a,
last year published what it said was a 1991 letter from the late palace
secretary detailing $US350 million held by the king in offshore bank accounts.

The letter caused a sensation in the kingdom, leading to the
three arrests.

May 20, 2003

ABC News Online: http://abc.net.au/news/ 

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