Tamasese pleads not guilty, Court denies bail variation

Anti-vaccination activist, Edwin Suliveta Tamasese, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of incitement against a Government vaccination order in response to the measles epidemic. 

But he has not been stopped from distributing Vitamin A and C tablets to members of the public who ask him for them.

Tamasese entered the not guilty plea through his lawyer, Tuala Joe Ponifasio, in the District Court on Tuesday. 

The charge stems from a social media post in which Tamasese wrote:  “I’ll be here to mop up your mess." He went on to say “enjoy your killing spree.” 

The Facebook post was made during the Government ordered lockdown when they moved to vaccinate the entire country for two days.

In entering the accused’s not guilty plea, Tuala asked to have the matter set down for hearing. 

Judge Leota Raymond Schuster scheduled the hearing for 2 April 2020 in the District Court. 

Prosecution and Attorney General’s Office lawyer, Silupevalelei Rexona Titi, made an application to vary the bail conditions for Tamasese, asking to restrict his online activities. 

She informed the Court the accused had recently made another post on Facebook telling members of the public that he has Vitamin A and C and to message him if they needed it.

The lawyer argued that the conditions for Tamasese’s bail was that he refrains from giving out tablets. She said this would encourage members of the public to seek alternative treatment which contradicts the message about vaccination from the Government. 

She alleged that the accused was going to hospitals and distributing tablets which some health officials have “raised concerns” about.

Judge Leota questioned the prosecution if the doctors at the hospitals had objected to the accused distributing Vitamin A, C and K tablets. He asked if there was evidence that the tablets was not helping measles patients. He also asked for evidence that distributing the tablets was an act of anti-vaccination, as per charge against the accused. 

In response, Silupe said she did not have the information to respond to the queries from Judge Leota.

She maintained that the accused should refrain from making such comments online that can discourage people from getting immunised and seeking other alternative treatment. 

Judge Leota denied the application to vary bail conditions for Tamasese, subject to the prosecution filing a supporting affidavit to back their claims. 

Tamasese is remanded on bail and required to sign with Police every Friday, until his hearing in April 2020. 

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