VANUATU POLICE CHIEF CONDEMNS JAILING OF PUBLISHER

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WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, April 4) – The head of Vanuatu’s police has strongly condemned the actions of several police officers at a recent rugby game and the subsequent detention of Vanuatu Daily Post publisher Marc Neil-Jones.

Last week Mr Neil-Jones was thrown into jail for five hours by seven police officers who are also members of the Vanuatu Police rugby team. He had committed a driving offence.

[PIR editor’s note: According to a story this week in the Daily Post, Neil-Jones spent six weeks in jail over the traffic incident. "The police chose not to put me at the jail at Tropical Market where people can visit and talk to prisoners," Neil-Jones said. " Instead they took me to the crowded ex-French jail and I was not allowed to talk to my lawyer, I was not allowed to contact anyone by phone and in that jail no one is allowed to see any family."]

Mr Neil-Jones says the police were retaliating against the Daily Post’s call for the National Rugby Union to discipline the police team over its violent on-field behaviour.

Acting Police Commissioner Arthur Caulton says they are looking into the matter.

"I strongly condemn what happened," Caulton said. "I think as a police officer, despite what happened on the field, they should refrain from fighting on the field or off the field. I look forward to the decision by the Vanuatu Rugby Union and from there I will do my best to generally deal with the officers concerned."

Arthur Caulton says he has rcommended the suspension of Sergeant Pakoa Lukai, who assaulted a journalist at the recent game.

April 5, 2006

Radio New Zealand International: www.rnzi.com

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