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Archbishop gives evidence in former deacon's sex trial

The leader of the Catholic Church in Samoa, Archbishop Alapati Lui Mataeliga, appeared via a video link in the Supreme Court on Tuesday to give evidence in the trial of a former deacon of the Catholic Church who is facing sexual charges.

Felise Samoa, who had served at the Malololelei parish and Falefa is facing three counts of sexual offences.

He pleaded not guilty to two charges of sexual connection and one charge of attempted sexual violation. 

Archbishop Mataeliga was the first of five witnesses for the prosecution. The leader of the Catholic Church in Samoa said he had called a meeting with the defendant on February 2017 when he received reports about sexual allegations against him. 

During the meeting where Samoa and his wife were present, the Archbishop questioned the defendant whether he had committed sexual acts against a young girl. 

The identity of the alleged victim and any information that may lead to her identity have been suppressed by the Court. 

“He admitted to the allegations saying it was true and it happened,” the Archbishop testified.  “He expressed his remorse and was apologetic…”

The Archbishop said the Catholic Church takes such matters very seriously and they do their own investigation. But he also made it clear that while the church addresses the issues through their own investigation, they do not interfere when the matter is with the Police.

Following the meeting between the Archbishop and Samoa, he was informed that his title as deacon had been stripped.

The decision by the church was further confirmed in a letter penned by Archbishop Mataeliga to Samoa to formally advice him.

“Sexual abuse of women and children is a crime in the eyes of the Lord,” the Archbishop stated in the letter to the defendant. 

“The allegations against you are very serious. This is why the church sets up a Special Committee to look into the conduct of its servants….” 

A letter in response to Archbishop Mataeliga from Samoa was also tendered in the Supreme Court. 

In that letter, Samoa apologised for his actions and told the Archbishop that he will not judge his decision to strip him of the deacon title.

During cross examination, defense lawyer, Lefau Harry Schuster, told the Archbishop that the letter of response from Samoa is unsigned. 

The leader of the Catholic Church said his secretary had told him that the letter was delivered by Samoa himself. 

Lefau also put it to the Archbishop that Samoa did not specifically discuss with him during their meeting what he did to the girl. 

But the Archbishop replied that the former deacon did admit in their meeting that he carried out the offence. 

The last witness was the alleged victim who is now living overseas. Through a video link, the female said there were three main incidents where Samoa had sexually violated her at his residence. 

She explained that her cousins had attended youth programmes and had often spent time with Samoa’s children and his wife at their home.  One of the alleged incidents, said the witness, is the defendant trying to force himself on to her and had removed her clothes. 

She told the Court that she didn’t like what was happening and she had cried at times. 

During cross examination, Lefau told the witness that her allegations are not true. 

She denied it saying that it did happen and she had told her cousin and family about it. 

Samoa chose not to give evidence in the matter. 

Justice Fepuleai Ameperosa Roma adjourned the matter for his verdict on 11 September 2020. 

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