King Faipopo appeals
The first man to be jailed in Samoa for defaming a person - Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi - on Facebook is appealing the decision.
Malele Paulo, who is better known as King Faipopo, was convicted and jailed for seven weeks.
But his lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, told the Samoa Observer they are appealing.
“The conviction and seven weeks sentence was harsh,” said Unasa, who did not reveal further grounds of their appeal.
The sentence was delivered two weeks ago by District Court Judge Alalatoa Rosella Papali'i, who denied an application from Paulo to vacate his earlier guilty plea, to not guilty.
Paulo had faced one count of Criminal libel over allegations he made against the complainant, Prime Minister Tuilaepa.
During an earlier interview, Unasa said the decision from the Court would have an impact on the online users. She said the jailing of Paulo over expressing his views on Facebook would be welcomed by people in power.
She did not name anyone.
“But for the average person, and I’m thinking about my children and grandchildren who enjoy talking on social media, this is an attempt at limiting with respect (their) rights to social media,” she said.
In a press statement issued by the Prime Minister last week, he said he has no intention of seeking revenge against Paulo for the allegations her made.
“All I wanted was to give King Faipopo the opportunity to stand in Court to prove the allegations he made against me,” he said.
“That is all I wanted, I don’t want anything else. It is now clear that it was all lies (the allegations made by Paulo) and the Court has found him guilty of defamation.”
Tuilaepa said the allegations made by King Faipopo were extremely serious to be made against the leader of a nation.
He said if the claims against him were true, then he is not fit to be a leader of the country. He pointed out the allegations made by the 45-year-old father that resided in Australia has brought shame to the country and its international partners.
The Prime Minister said he was happy when Paulo came to visit Samoa and posted about it on social media because it allowed the Government the opportunity to ask him to prove the allegations in Court.
In conclusion, Tuilaepa said freedom of expression is alive and well in Samoa, as long as the views and opinions are truthful.
When the District Court sentenced Paulo, Attorney General, Lemalu Hermann Retzlaff, said freedom of speech to express opinion was not the issue in the case.
“The issue is, that one cannot present to the public false statements as though they were true facts, without any evidence to support them, fully intending to harm the reputation and it follows the family and life of the person that the false statements are aimed at,” said Lemalu.
Paulo is also accused in a separate matter, involving an alleged conspiracy to assassinate Prime Minister Tuilaepa.