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Solomon Islands PM: Attorney-general's appointment stands despite child sex allegations

Solomon Islands PM: Attorney-general's appointment stands despite child sex allegations

The Solomon Islands leader stood by his newly appointed attorney general on Wednesday, alleging Australia's pursuit of the nominee on child sex charges was politically motivated.
Julian Moti, a close personal friend of Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare, has been taking diplomatic refuge in the Solomons' diplomatic mission in neighboring Papua New Guinea since jumping bail five days ago.
Moti was arrested at Australia's request as he tried to return to the Solomons to take up the position of the country's senior legal officer.
Australia has demanded Moti be handed to Papua New Guinea authorities to face extradition proceedings related to an alleged child sexual assault in 1997. The Solomons government says the extradition move is part of a deep political rift between the two countries.
"Moti's appointment stands," Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said in a statement Wednesday. Sogavare's Press Secretary Deli Oso said reports that Moti's appointment had been revoked were inaccurate.
"I will not be swayed by the attempts of Australia to keep Moti away from coming to take up his appointment," Sogavare said.
Australian Justice Minister Chris Ellison insisted Australian authorities had followed proper procedures in seeking the arrest and extradition of Moti, countering claims that Solomons' officials have used to justify sheltering Moti.
Ellison said his country's pursuit of Moti was based on a police investigation that started last year.
"It's certainly untrue to say that this is just a recent event or something that is politically based," Ellison told Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio.
Sogavare last month expelled Australia's ambassador in Honiara, alleging he was interfering in the Solomons' internal affairs for opposing a government-ordered inquiry into April riots in the capital.
Sogavare came to power in the wake of the riots, and later appointed to his Cabinet two lawmakers who were charged with inflaming the violence. Canberra alleges the Sogavare-ordered inquiry is designed to save the two former ministers from trials.
Australian peacekeepers are in the Solomons to keep the peace after a security breakdown and years of violence. Canberra says the security forces will not be withdrawn to punish Sogavare because the move would also hurt the people of the Solomons.
Sogavare is expected to face a no confidence vote in parliament on Friday.


Updated : 2021-06-22 23:20 GMT+08:00