TONGAN GUILTY IN RARE MURDER CONVICTION

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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Oct. 25) – A young man has been found guilty of murder at the Nuku’alofa Supreme Court in Tonga last week, after a four-day trial by jury, for the murder of Salesi Taufalele who died after being hit on the head with an iron bar.

Since 1981, no one has been convicted of murder in Tonga; the offense carries the death sentence or life imprisonment.

Tevita Vola , 26, was found guilty on Oct. 20 by a jury of seven for the murder of Salesi Taufalele, 31, on January 31 at Tatakamotonga when he repeatedly hit the deceased’s head with an iron bar and caused his death.

Vola was charged together with Nelson Siulangapo and Tongakilo Folau Katoa in relation to the crime.

Nelson Siulangapo was found not guilty on the charge of murder, but guilty on the second charge of manslaughter when he also hit the deceased’s head with an iron bar, and caused his death.

Tongakilo Folau Katoa was charged with a lesser count of common assault when on the same day he willfully and without lawful justification punched Salesi Vola on his right cheek. During the trial’s proceeding on October 19 Katoa pleaded guilty to the charge of assault.

Chief Justice Robin Webster, who presided over the trial held on October 17 – 20, reserved the sentencing of the three convicted men to be passed on November 10.

Sione Sisifa was the counsel for the Crown and Siosifa Tu’utafaiva for the accused.

The guilty verdict delivered by the jury is the first in 24 years. The last murder conviction in Tonga was in 1981 when four men were sentenced to death and hung at the village of Vaini.

Since then there have been several jury trials in Tonga on the charge of murder but none of the juries have passed a guilty verdict for murder, preferring a lesser charge of manslaughter.

October 26, 2005

Matangi Tonga Magazine: www.matangitonga.to/home/

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