PNG PRIME MINISTER: LET MOTI RETURN TO SOLOMONS

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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (PNG Post-Courier, Oct. 5) – Papua New Guinea Minister Sir Michael Somare yesterday said fugitive lawyer Julian Moti should be allowed to fly to Honiara.

Sir Michael said it was a matter for Australia and the Solomon Islands and PNG does not have laws to detain people in such situations.

In an interview with the Government-owned Karai Radio, he said: "We have no law under our Act to hold people to ransom. He (Moti) came here, he is to have a free passage from us to go to Solomon Islands. However, there is so much delay and everybody has been involved in this issue; police goes and arrests a man instead of trying to find out proper channels — how he should handle the issue. Police goes and does this; who are they listening to? Who is commanding them to take the orders (to arrest Moti)? It certainly didn’t come from the Commissioner of Police," Sir Michael said.

The new Solomon Islands attorney general absconded a court hearing last Saturday and sought refuge in the Solomon Islands’ diplomatic mission in Port Moresby to escape extradition to Australia, where he is wanted for a child sex offence committed in Vanuatu in 1997.

Public Prosecutor Chronox Manek — in a bid to clarify media reports relating to Moti’s arrest last Friday — said Australia, as a member of the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF), used the "simplified process" under the Extradition Act (2005) to request the lawyer’s arrest when he flew into Port Moresby from Singapore on route to Honiara.

"Under this process, a Forum country may request Papua New Guinea to arrest a fugitive if that person is in Papua New Guinea or is suspected to be on his or her way to PNG," Mr Manek said of the new Act. The Act came into effect in March this year. Prime Minister Sir Michael said PNG and Australia did not have an "extradition memorandum of understanding" to ensure people such as Moti were detained. Sir Michael also questioned why the lawyer was wanted when Vanuatu courts had cleared him of the same charge.

As the war of words between the Solomon Islands Government, PNG and Australia continued over the Indo-Fijian lawyer, Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer appealed to the Solomon Islands Government to release Moti to PNG authorities.

"The PNG magistrates court has ordered Mr Moti to be remanded in custody, and I would expect the Solomon Islands Government to hand him over to the Papua New Guinean authorities, I think that would be the right thing to do," the Australian Foreign Minister said.

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