Alleged mass prison break plotters in Court

The two prisoners accused of masterminding the failed mass prison break plot last month, Tagaloasa Filipaina and Ovaleni Poli, appeared in Court yesterday.

The men were called before the Chief Justice, His Honour Patu Tiava’asue Falefatu Sapolu.

They were represented by their lawyer, Pa’u Tafaogalupe Mulitalo, who asked the Court for his clients to be transferred from the Apia Police Station to Tafaigata Prison.

During the hearing, counsel Fa’alau Lagaia, who is representing the Samoa Prison and Correction Services, asked for an adjournment.

 “I appear on behalf of the Samoa Prison and Correction Services on this matter and as a second respondent,” said Fa’alau. 

“We have only been given a copy of the memorandum this morning that was dated to your honor last week Friday." 

“Therefore, we are seeking a one week adjournment so we can obtain instructions from the Ministry of Prison and also to go through the memorandum because we haven’t had time to view the memorandum.”

Chief Justice Patu granted the application.

“This matter is further adjourned to Monday 12th March at 2pm for the second respondent to obtain full instructions and to file and serve a response, and for the first respondent to file and serve their response as well,” said Chief Justice.

But Pa’u was not happy.

He argued that his clients should be released while waiting for the order to be given by the Court.

“We acknowledge the order given this morning, but this is a special request for an interim arranged for my clients to be released while we are waiting for the adjournment for the time being,” Pa’u told the Court.

“They have been locked up in the Police Station for four weeks now and the nature of criminal charges against them remains unknown.”

But Chief Justice Patu said that natural justice applies to the applicants as well as the respondent.

“Counsel for the second response has just told the Court that she has just received notice of your motion this morning,” Chief Justice Patu said.

“But natural justice also requires that adequate time be given to the other party to prepare, so there is no adequate time has been given to the second respondent because they have only received a copy of your memorandum this morning."

“So while I can understand your situation but natural justice applies to the applicant as well as the respondent, so the applicants will remain where they are until Monday next week."

“And I will expect first and second respondents to be filed.”

Last week a copy of the memorandum was obtained by the Sunday Samoan, which shows that Pa’u is filing it against the Ministry of Police and the Ministry of Prisons and Correction Services. 

The lawyer claims that his clients have been kept in Police custody for more than three weeks now without criminal charges laid against them. What’s more, he claims they are being denied legal representation.

 Pa’u is concerned about the way the Police and the Correction Services have approached and handled Tagaloasa and Ovaleni. 

“It is obvious from the way things have turned out that there is a likelihood of the constitutional rights of the applicants being infringed.” 

Pa’u argues that the Police Commissioner should protect human rights, including that of his clients.

“However if that is a lawful duty to be undertaken by the Police Commissioner then denying the right of the applicants to have access to legal representation is a breach of section 16 (d) and the rights of the applicants under the Constitution of Samoa.” 

Pa’u noted the last time he met Police officials including Commissioner, Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil, the Commissioner told the Counsel that the only reason the applicants are kept in Police custody for the time being is because of their safety and the transfer of the applicants back to Tafaigata prison will happen when investigations at Tafaigata prison is completed.

“When is the investigation going to conclude remains unknown and it is absolutely unjust and unfair for the applicants to be kept in Police custody with uncertainty and continuous denial to their rights to access what they are entitled to while at Tafaigata prison. 

“There are other issues that the applicants want to address before your Honor and can only be done so fairly at mentions if the opportunity is so desired by your Honor to be given as part of the rights of the applicants to a fair trial under Article 9 of the Constitution.”

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