Tonga Prosecutors Appeal Dismissal Of Charges Over Fungavaka Death

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Three police officers were released at order of Magistrate Mafi

NUKU‘ALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, April 26, 2013) – The Crown lodged an appeal last week against a decision by Nuku'alofa Magistrate Salesi Mafi to release three of the six men accused of manslaughter in relation to the death of New Zealand Police officer Kali Fungavaka.

The Attorney General Neil Adsett said on April 26 that the appeal would be heard by a Supreme Court judge.

"We are waiting for a date for that appeal hearing because the prosecution was relying on a combination of events that involved all accused. The final trial is delayed until we know for sure who will ultimately have to stand trial," he said.

Evidence

On April 11, Magistrate Mafi found there was insufficient and vague evidence against police constables Fatai Faletau, Tevita Vakalahi and Manu Tu'ivai and released them at the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court. His decision came after reviewing the evidence of 23 witnesses called by the Crown during a Preliminary Inquiry held on February 25-28, at the lower court.

The Magistrate then found sufficient evidence against the other three accused, Police Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia, Police Constable Salesi Maile and a civilian Semisi Kalisitiane Manu. He said their case would be submitted to the Supreme Court for trial.

Crown Prosecutor Sione Sisifa had made submissions during the inquiry that there was a case to be tried at the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court against all of the six accused.

The Preliminary Inquiry was to decide whether there was a case for trial at the Supreme Court against the accused who were similarly charged with manslaughter and an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm.

The victim died at Vaiola Hospital on August 23, 2012 after receiving fatal injuries while in police custody on 17 August.

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