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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, June 8) - The Cook Islands Attorney General has authorized criminal proceedings against local newspaper publisher George Pitt over a satirical letter published recently in The Cook Islands Herald.

The letter, purportedly written by Prime Minister Robert Woonton to the premier of the People’s Republic of China, thanked the premier for a recent grant to the Cook Islands government.

The fake letter was dated a day after Woonton returned from a state visit to Beijing.

The Cook Islands News reports that in the seven-page ruling, Chief Justice Laurie Greig said the article could be classed as sufficiently serious to justify the intervention of criminal law.

Greig said that prosecutions for criminal libel were rare and it’s not thought that one has been brought before in the Cook Islands.

George Pitt says he will continue to defend his case, but has no further comment until he has spoken to his lawyers.

June 9, 2004

Radio New Zealand International:



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