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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, May 17) – The trial of the Tonga Speaker of the House, Noble Veikune, and two other men who have pleaded not guilty to bribery charges, has been postponed by Mr Justice Ian Thomas until next year 2006.

Noble Veikune, ‘Amini Tu'ivai and ‘Aisea To’a were alleged to have bribed and conspired to bribe civil servants, custom officers, for the release of a container of alcohol spirits from the wharf in 2003.

Justice Thomas ordered for a hearing to take place on May 27 to set the date for the hearing next year.

The four day trial was scheduled to start today with anticipation of a court decision to be reached before Parliament opens on May 26. However, it was not possible for the hearing to proceed because a majority of the Crown's 17 witnesses were not present. Crown Counsel ‘Ofa Pouono said that only four of his witnesses who were subpoenaed turned up for the trial this morning.

He said the rest of his witnesses who had not been subpoenaed did not attend although they were advised to be present at the hearing today. He requested for more time to make sure that all his witnesses were present. His two key witnesses were currently overseas.

Noble Veikune's legal counsel was Mele Mangisi.

The three accused entered pleas of not guilty to the charges in the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court on May 12. Noble Veikune was charged with one offence of bribery of a government servant. 'Amini Tu'ivai was charged with two counts of knowingly dealing with forged documents and conspiracy to commit bribery of a government servant. Aisea To'a was charged with bribery of a government servant and conspiracy to commit bribery of a government servant.

May 18, 2005

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