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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (The National, Dec. 14) – Madang, Papua New Guinea, Governor James Yali was found guilty of raping and sexually assaulting his 17-year-old sister-in-law by the Madang National Court yesterday.

Justice David Cannings said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Yali had committed the two offences at the Madang provincial complex in October last year.

He, however, acquitted the 42-year-old governor of two other charges - abduction and abuse of trust.

Rape carries a minimum jail time of seven years. Mr Yali will automatically lose his seat in Parliament if he is sentenced to a term more than nine months.

After the decision was handed down, governor Yali was led away to the Beon prison, where he will be held in custody until Jan 17, 2006, when Justice Cannings will sentence him.

In his 13-page judgment, he said evidence gathered showed that Yali went to the home of the victim on the morning of Oct 13 and invited her and her brother to attend a dinner at the Madang Resort in conjunction with the national governors’ conference.

Later that day, he returned to pick up the girl and her brother but the victim said she had to do her homework.

Yali took the brother to the hotel and a short while later went back to the girl’s house.

Instead of going to the hotel, he drove to Smugglers Inn where he met some people and made a phone call.

From there, he drove to the Madang provincial government building and went to his office while the girl remained in the vehicle.

When he returned, he drove to the village of Mis, about 8km out of Madang town, and then returned to the government building where they both went to his office.

Justice Cannings said the victim claimed he forced her into the office while the accused claimed she went in voluntarily.

In the office, Yali sexually penetrated the girl, he said.

Justice Cannings said he considered the girl to be a credible witness but the accused was not a "convincing" one.

He also noted that the medical evidence showed that the girl had had sexual intercourse but that it was probably non-consensual.

Justice Cannings said no one had been charged with extortion or blackmail though it had been submitted that those things happened.

"It is relevant to consider whether they did, in fact, happen," he said, referring to a letter demanding payment.

He said he did not believe that the accused was blackmailed.

"I am inclined to the view that what happened was an attempt to make it appear that there was a blackmail, when, really, what was happening was the implementation of a plan to make a substantial payment of money in order to get the complainant and her family to drop the case," he said.

In handing out the verdict, he said the charge of rape had two elements: that the accused sexually penetrated the complainant and with her consent.

He said the evidence supported both elements and therefore found Yali guilty of the charge.

On the charge of sexual assault, he said he looked at three elements: that the accused "touched with a part of his body; the sexual parts of the complainant, and the complainant’s consent".

Justice Cannings said he also considered three elements for the charge of abuse of trust.

They were: the accused being engaged in an act of sexual penetration of the complainant; that the complainant was a child between the age of 16 and 18 and that the complainant was a child with whom the accused had an existing relationship of trust.

Justice Cannings said only the first two elements - rape and that the victim was underaged - were met.

"Therefore the accused is not guilty of count 3," he said.

On the charge of abduction, he said the accused did take the victim away with intent to have sex with her.

However, he was not so satisfied as to the element of whether it was done against her will and acquitted Yali of the charge.

December 15, 2005

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