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By Phil-Peers Yombon

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Sept. 29) – The National Court in Wabag, Enga province, has imposed the death penalty on a 28-year-old man after finding him guilty of willfully murdering a pastor's son in an ambush last year.

Justice Moses Jalina imposed the sentence last Friday saying it would serve as a warning to a province known for tribal wars and payback killings.

The murderer, Kepaka Langa, of Samagares village near Wabag, and two others from the Kandaunkin tribe, had attacked Pastor Daniel Hopa's family last year at Keas village in Wabag, the court had heard.

It heard that Langa and his accomplices had waited for the pastor and his son, John Daniel, and had attacked them when they were returning home.

The court heard that the attackers, who had guns, started firing at the pastor and his son. The shot aimed at Pastor Hopa missed while the son was shot on the hand.

The court was told that Langa rushed from his hiding place with an axe and chopped John Daniel several times on the head.

The court heard that John Daniel died from deep axe wounds to the head, mutilating parts of his brain.

Justice Jalina, in his judgment, said that attacking in an ambush and killing innocent, unexpected and defenseless people was a worse form of willful murders.

The judge noted that Langa and his two accomplices, who are still at large, had planned the ambush as means of payback for the killing of Tonde Langa at Imia village, also outside Wabag, last year.

Justice Jalina said that people responsible for the death of Tonde Langa were only known to God, but in so far as justice was concerned, the family of Pastor Daniel Hopa and the late John Daniel were innocent.

After weighing the arguments by the counsel representing Kepaka Langa, Justice Jalina rejected the plea for a lighter sentence.

He said the court appreciated that the warring Guapin and Kandaukin clans have made peace and that compensation would be paid. It was a good example which other warring clans must follow but the peaceful re-settlement had nothing to do with the case before him, he said.

Justice Jalina said for Langa and his accomplices to kill a fellow Kandaukin clansman after a year of tribal fight was inhuman and cold-blooded, and that the death penalty was appropriate in this case.

The Judge said that Enga province was known for cold-blooded killings. He said that during his four years in the province, there had been many cases of cold-blooded killings and the penalties were life imprisonments but people had not changed their attitudes.

There have been killings after killings, even in Wabag town, and it was hard to handle this kind of crime, he said. 

Enga province has produced leaders like the Deputy Chief Justice Salamo Injia but people at the village could not change their attitude, he said.

Justice Jalina told Langa that he could appeal against his sentence to the Supreme Court within 14 days.

Immediately after the sentence, John Daniel's widow, Dianh Daniel indicated that she was relieved that justice was done at last.

On the other hand, Langa's relative wept, with some of them vowing revenge.

September 29, 2003

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