TONGAN COURT ACQUITS TV JOURNALIST

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Saulala charged with sedition over riot broadcasts

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (Radio New Zealand International, July 17, 2008) – A Tongan broadcaster, who has been cleared of charges relating to the November 2006 riots, has praised the judiciary in the kingdom.

Sangster Saulala has been been arrested twice and charged on four counts, including sedition and unlawful assembly, relating to the riots in Nuku’alofa.

But the high court dismissed all accusations against him last Friday, citing insufficient evidence.

[PIR editor’s note: According to Radio Australia, Sangster Saulala, a supporter of the Kingdom's pro-democracy movement, is the owner of a private TV station which was shut down during rioting in 2006. He had been facing sedition charges in relation to his station's broadcasts leading up to the riot. ]

Mr Saulala says he was wrongfully charged and the Government took away his broadcasting rights, when he was simply doing his job.

He says the court ruling last week proves the judiciary is independent.

"It shows the world that the judiciary here in Tonga is fair and that there’s justice there. That’s the only place in Tonga that has fairness and accountability and transparency and we are hoping what happened in the justice system can happen in parliament; that we have more democracy and fairness."

The number two people’s representative, Isi Pulu, was also cleared of all charges regarding the riot on Monday.

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