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Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Rasta freed from Saki's death

Former Malaita Eagle Force Commander, Jimmy Rasta Lusibaea, who was accused for his role in the death of Selwyn Saki was yesterday found “not guilty” at the Solomon Islands High Court. He is now free from charges relating to the death of Saki.

High Court judge Justice Edwin Goldsbrough ordered a “not guilty” plea on Lusibaea after the prosecution was unable to provide sufficient evidence against his alleged involvement. Lusibaea initially faced a charge of “falsely detaining” Saki during events leading to his death. Justice Goldsbrough made the ruling yesterday following arguments from the prosecution and the defence at a “no case to answer” hearing this week.

The defence team also strongly urged Justice Goldsbrough yesterday to drop the charges of “kidnapping” and “false imprisonment” laid against seven others over their roles in events surrounding the alleged murder of Saki. The defence argued that those offences are charged under the ‘Common Law’ (English Law) and should be quashed because the Solomon Islands ‘Law Books’ (Penal Code) do not have any definition for those offences. Defence lawyer, Heath Barklay applied for a permanent stay of proceedings relating to offences charged under the common law because it will be unfair for his client Benedict Indu. He said Indu’s offences were not defined by Solomon Islands laws. “It will be unfair if Indu is allowed to stand trial for offences not known to Solomon Islands laws. “That creates a significant unfairness to him,” Mr Barklay argued. The entire defence team also expressed similar arguments during the hearing yesterday.

But the prosecution said even if the common law is not entirely applied in the Solomon Islands there are certain provisions in the penal code that empowers the application of certain parts of the common law here. If Justice Goldsbrough rules in favour of the defence, it is likely that the seven accused men will only be tried for murder. All men pleaded not guilty to the charges as their trial continues.

The judge is expected to make his ruling on Thursday. Saki who was a commander of the Isatabu Freedom Movement of Guadalcanal was allegedly kidnapped from his village 20 kilometers east of Honiara by a group of armed men in September 2001. His partly mutilated body was found the next day in his car with bullet wounds at a remote location near Honiara.

Source: Alfred Maesulia (Government Communications Unit)

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