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HONIARA, Solomon Islands (Solomon Star, Oct. 4) - Julian Moti’s appointment as the country’s Attorney-General has been revoked, the Solomon Star was reliably told last night.

The news came as the controversial Australian lawyer remained holed up in the Solomon Islands High Commission in PNG yesterday.

Sources close to the Judicial and Legal Service Commission say the appointment was revoked during the commission’s meeting yesterday.

"Prime Minister Sogavare was informed of the decision and was asked to look for another suitable candidate," one source told the Solomon Star.

Another source added: "No, Moti is not coming. His appointment has been revoked. The next likely thing that could happen to him is for him to be extradited to Australia to face the child sex allegations he was charged with."

The Solomon Star understands that the commission’s decision will be announced today. Moti, who was handpicked by Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare for the top job, was nabbed by PNG police last Friday in Moresby, on his way to the Solomons.

His arrest was made at the request of the Australian Federal Police, who wanted Moti to face child sex offences under Australian law in relation to offences he allegedly committed in Vanuatu in 1997. He appeared briefly in a PNG court last Friday before he was released on bail to reappear the next day. He absconded bail and failed to attend his court hearing.

At the behest of Prime Minister Sogavare, Moti took refuge in the Solomon Islands High Commission in Moresby to avoid police arrest. He remained a fugitive last night. Foreign Affairs minister Patteson Oti yesterday defended the government’s decision to harbor Moti, a foreigner, in the high commission. He claimed Moti was a government official and therefore the government was obliged to take care of him.

Prime Minister Sogavare yesterday issued a statement saying Moti’s lawyer in PNG will appeal the court decision to have Moti arrested. The Judicial and Legal Service Commission appointed Moti two weeks ago following recommendation from Sogavare. He was Prime Minister Sogavare’s only choice for the top legal job.

Many Solomon Islanders, including the Solomon Islands Bar Association, strongly objected to the appointment. But their opposition was simply ignored in the process of appointing Moti to replace Primo Afeau, whom the prime minister had removed from the post.

Meanwhile, PNG’s Justice Minister Bire Kimisopa said yesterday the law should be allowed to take its course in the Moti case. "These are matters for the law and it’s always been my view that if there’s any problems of that magnitude we have to stick by the law and not allow any diplomatic sensitivities to override what should purely be a law and order issue. These are serious allegations in terms of child sex offences and I think it needs to be determined at the appropriate place at the appropriate time."

Kimisopa said he expected the case to be discussed at a PNG Cabinet meeting today but he expected PNG would stick to its extradition processes.

The minister’s views contrast with a statement last Monday night from the prime minister’s department, which accused Australia of a "diplomatic blunder" in not following proper processes in seeking Moti’s arrest.

October 5, 2006

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