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Solomon Islands' top legal official suspended over Australian arrest warrant

Solomon Islands' top legal official suspended over Australian arrest warrant

The Solomon Islands Public Service Commission on Thursday suspended the nation's newly appointed attorney general after confirming he was wanted in Australia on child sex allegations.
Meanwhile, the wanted official, Julius Moti, emerged from almost a week of hiding in Papua New Guinea after Prime Minister Michael Somare said he would not be arrested, drawing Papua New Guinea into a widening rift between the Solomons' leader and Australia.
Moti drove out of the Solomons' diplomatic mission in Papua New Guinea late Thursday, dodging an Australian Broadcasting Corp. news crew, the ABC reported.
Moti, an Australian citizen, was arrested on Sept. 29 at Australia's request in Papua New Guinea while in transit to the Solomons to take up the attorney general post.
He jumped bail and took refuge in the Solomons' High Commission, claiming diplomatic immunity.
Australia wants to try Moti for allegedly having sex with an underage girl in Vanuatu, another South Pacific island nation, in 1997.
Solomons Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare says that the Vanuatu charges against Moti have been dismissed, and that Australia is pursuing him as part of an agenda against his government.
Under Australia's anti-pedophile laws, its citizens can be tried for crimes committed overseas.
A Papua New Guinea magistrate issued an order for Moti's arrest for failing to attend court to face extradition.
But Somare on Thursday sought to overrule the decision, saying the police who initially arrested Moti would be disciplined.
"We have no law ... to hold people to ransom," Somare told Papua New Guinea's Karai Radio. Moti "is to have a free passage from us to go to the Solomon Islands," he said.
Australia's Attorney-General Phillip Ruddock said that Moti was the subject of an Interpol alert, and that Canberra was disappointed with Somare's comments.
In the Solomons' capital, Honiara, Chairman Edmund Andresen said the Public Service Commission had suspended Moti after reviewing the arrest warrant issued by Australia, according to a report by Solomon Islands Broadcasting.
Sogavare and Australia have been feuding over an inquiry Sogavare ordered into rioting that razed part of Honiara in April. Australian peacekeepers were deployed to restore order, and Sogavare came to power in the wake of the violence.
Two lawmakers Sogavare appointed as Cabinet ministers were arrested for allegedly inflaming the violence. Canberra says Sogavare's inquiry is designed to spoil their trials, a stance that prompted Sogavare last month to expel Australia's ambassador.
Sogavare faces strong opposition at home, and could lose power in a planned vote of confidence due in Parliament on Friday. His press secretary, Deli Oso, confirmed reports that the government may issue Moti a passport.
"In order to get Moti to travel to Honiara, the government might have to issue a passport," she said. "Since his Australian passport is canceled, he'll need one to travel."


Updated : 2021-05-08 16:36 GMT+08:00