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Arson ruling next Friday

The trial of three men potentially facing 14 years in prison for allegedly torching two homes in Taelefaga, Fagaloa last year, has ended.

Supreme Court Justice Fepulea’i Ameperosa Roma is scheduled to deliver his ruling on the case next week Friday.

Standing trial are Pisi Atiifale’s and his co-accused: Vaiafai Tulima and Sosaiete Fuiava.

Evidence was given on Wednesday and on Thursday morning, while Government prosecutor Quentin Sauaga and the defence counsel for Pisi Atiifale gave their closing arguments.

Tulima and Fuiava represented themselves during the trial.

The men have been jointly charged with one count of arson which carries a maximum penalty of 14 years imprisonment.

They have pleaded not guilty.

The Prosecution sought to prove the defendants intentionally or recklessly caused damage by fire or explosives to property. 

Prosecution witnesses included four Police officers, the arson victim’s nephew and a senior matai from Taelefaga.

Sauaga argued that the victim in the case is Fialele Amataga, the paramount chief of his family to whom the two homes belonged. Fialele was unavailable to testify in the trial, he added.

Prior to the day of alleged offending, there was a dispute between the victim’s family and the matai of the village council, the prosecutor said.

“This is in relation to the clearing or the cleaning of the land for the funeral of the victim’s wife,” said Sauaga.

“Village matai of Taelefaga stopped the cleaning because they claim the victim was banished from the village. The victim’s family left to keep the peace.”

Several days after the dispute, the village had a meeting sometime during the day to discuss the issue regarding the victim and his family.

Prosecution witness Leota Sialafau, a matai of Taelefaga, who testified on 20 September the two homes belonging to the victim burned down.

“[The] prosecution argues that there are three people who are responsible for burning down the victim’s houses. Those people are Vaiafai, Sosaiete and Pisi,” Sauaga said.

He pointed out that Tulima and Fuiava decided not to call any evidence or give any. Atiifale elected not to testify but did call three witnesses.

Defence attorney Afamasaga said his client had no time to commit the crime on the night in question and there was evidence to prove that.

Tulima and Fuiava did not give closing arguments.

“I will give time to consider the arguments and submissions by counsel. I will not deliver today. I will adjourn your matter to Friday next week…for me to deliver my decision,” Justice Roma said. 

Justice Roma has scheduled his ruling for Friday, 19 June at 12:30 p.m.

Tulima is the only defendant among the three who is being held in custody due to charges in a separate matter.

He was remanded in custody Thursday.

Atiifale and Fuiava were remanded on bail.

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