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NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Mar 15) – The Prosecution Team of Tonga’s Crown Law Department this morning took over from the Police Prosecution Team at the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court, to prosecute cases involving major crimes that were committed during the destruction of the capital Nuku'alofa on November 16, 2006.

These include charges such as sedition, arson, murder and damage to properties.

Today, 'Ofa Simiki, a Nuku'alofa business woman, was scheduled to appear in the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court for her Preliminary Inquiry hearing. It is the first Preliminary Inquiry of the eight prominent citizens who have been charged with sedition and other major crimes in connection with the November 16 riot. It was schedule to start today and run until the end of the month. These eight prominent people include the five People's Representatives, 'Akilisi Pohiva, 'Isileli Pulu, William Clive Edwards, Lepolo Taunisila and 'Uliti Uata. The other three are 'Ofa Simiki, Dr Tu'i Uata (a son of 'Uliti Uata) and Sangstar Saulala, the manager and a presenter of the OBN Television.

The initial Crown Law Prosecution Team that was formed following the riot last November included lawyers from Australia and New Zealand.

Tonga's Solicitor General Linda Folaumoetu'i and Police Magistrate Salesi Mafi rescheduled the Preliminary Hearings of the eight so that the five People's Representatives appear in court first, before the opening of parliament either at the end of May or early June.

Lepolo Taunisila will appear first on April 3 to face charges of sedition and unlawful assembly, followed by 'Akilisi Pohiva on April 10 to face three counts of sedition. 'Isileli Pulu will appear on April 17 to face two counts of sedition and one for abetting willful damage to properties. William Clive Edwards will appear on April 24 to face two counts of sedition, and 'Uliti Uata will appear on May 1 to face two counts of sedition and two counts for unlawful assembly and rioting.

Other November 16 cases that involve major crimes, including the other three prominent people, Tu'i Uata, Sangstar Saulala and 'Ofa Simiki will be scheduled for later dates.

Meanwhile the police prosecution team will continue prosecuting the remaining cases of people charged for other criminal offences such as housebreaking, theft and damaging properties.

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