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Former attorney general of Solomons Islands held in Australia on child sex charges

Former attorney general of Solomons Islands held in Australia on child sex charges

The Solomon Islands' former attorney general was jailed Friday in Australia to await trial on child sex charges, a day after being extradited from the South Pacific country.
The arrest of Julian Moti, an Australian citizen who for months was at the center of a diplomatic row between the two countries, came after a change of government in the Solomons.
"I appreciate the fact that the new government of the Solomons has moved early to return Mr. Moti to Australia," Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told reporters in the southern city of Melbourne. "Now these matters lie with the appropriate legal authorities."
Moti, 42, was fired as attorney general earlier this week, a few days after Derek Sikua, a former education minister, became prime minister when his predecessor Manessah Sogavare was sacked in a vote among lawmakers.
Sogavare was a close friend of Moti's and provoked Australia's ire by appointing Moti as his country's top legal official, despite outstanding charges against him in his home country.
Moti appeared briefly in the Brisbane Magistrates Court on Friday on charges of raping a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu, another South Pacific islands country, in 1997. He was acquitted of the charge in Vanuatu, but under Australian laws against child sex tourism he can be tried in his home country.
Moti was ordered to stay in custody until Jan. 4. His case was adjourned to give him time to find a private lawyer.
If convicted he faces a maximum penalty of 17 years imprisonment, an Australian Federal Police statement said.
Moti was arrested at the airport in the eastern city of Brisbane on Thursday when he arrived from Honiara, the Solomons capital, after being fired by Sikua.
The Solomons' High Court last week ruled Moti held no special legal status as attorney general and was therefore not immune from extradition.
On his election, Sikua pledged to send Moti back to Australia as part of its policy of improving relations with Canberra after a series of bitter rows between the two nations during Sogavare's 20-month rule.
The case was sure to improve strained ties between the two countries, which are focused on a multinational security force that ended years of communal violence.
The Australian-led security force is popular among most Solomon Islanders for ending instability there, but Sogavare tried to paint it as interfering and threatened to kick it out of the country.
Sogavare's support gradually eroded amid public anger that corruption and mismanagement of the parlous economy continued under his rule, and Sikua quickly promised to end the Solomons' criticism of Australia, the South Pacific region's largest aid donor.


Updated : 2021-05-11 18:50 GMT+08:00