Attorney General "duty-bound" to pursue Pauga's extradition

The Attorney General Savaleanoa Mareva Betham Annandale is standing by the Government’s choice to seek extradition of Talalelei Pauga, who allegedly conspired to murder the Prime Minister.

In a statement to the Samoa Observer on Tuesday, Salavenoa confirmed her office had made a “lawful request” for extradition back in February, and that Australia has honoured that request.

“There is sufficient evidence to support the charge against Mr. Pauga. Given that the [hearings] of the other two co-defendants have yet to commence, the evidence surrounding the case cannot be disclosed at this stage,” she said.

Pauga has been in custody since August 20 after the Australian authorities began carrying out Samoa’s extradition request and is trying to fight the request and stay in Brisbane.

He faced the Court for the first time late last month, where his lawyers argued he has been unlawfully detained while the extradition case is considered. 

His application to leave police custody was rejected and he remains in remand today.

Savalenoa said with sufficient evidence she is “duty bound” to pursue Pauga’s extradition and begin criminal proceedings against him here in Samoa.

“The Attorney General is duty bound to pursue the extradition request of Mr. Pauga and institute criminal proceedings in Samoa as there is sufficient evidence to support the alleged offence committed by Mr. Pauga. 

“The Attorney General is also mandated to uphold the Constitution of Samoa, which includes the right to a fair trial. 

“At this stage the Attorney General is awaiting the outcome of the extradition proceedings in Australia.”

She did not confirm whether her office has disclosed the evidence to the Australian Government or to the courts, but under the country’s extradition laws this is not required.

Last week, Amnesty International’s Pacific researcher Kate Schuetze said she is concerned Pauga’s extradition is “politically motivated,” as he has been an outspoken critic of the Prime Minister.

In 2018, Pauga threw a pig’s head at Tuilaepa while he was speaking at a public event in Queensland, and is now one of three men charged with conspiracy to murder, with co-defendants Lemai Faioso Sione and Malele Atofu Paulo, also known as King Faipopo.

Ms. Schuetze said before the Brisbane courts can decide on the extradition request it should see and discuss the evidence Samoa has against him, even though the Australian law doesn’t require it.

“Under international human rights law [Pauga] is entitled to know the case against him and prepare his defence in response to that case,” she said.

“I think where there is a case that it might be politically motivated like this one there should be a stronger threshold to prove charges are legitimate and based on evidence, before a person is extradited.”

Ms. Schuetze became aware of Mr. Pauga’s situation last week when his extradition charges were heard in the Brisbane district court, six weeks after his arrest in August. 

“It’s quite unusual in Australia for a person to be brought before the courts immediately after their arrest and detention,” she said.

“Every person has the right to challenge the lawfulness and reason for their detention and the court has a responsibility to assess whether detention is strictly necessary.”

It was his first time before a court since his arrest, which came after the Samoa Government requested his extradition to Samoa to face trial over allegations of conspiracy to murder the Prime Minister, along with three other men.

Last week in court his application for release as he fights to avoid extradition was rejected. His lawyers argue he is being unlawfully detained because of this delay between his arrest and his first court appearance. They are also arguing he is not a flight risk, but Samoa’s lawyers are opposing this. 

On Wednesday night in a radio interview, Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi made thinly veiled threats against Mr. Pauga.

“It is important to note that when you are involved in a conspiracy to do bad things, you will get caught in the middle of it all,” he said. 

“The Australia Judiciary is quite different from ours and that the case should have been heard here [in Samoa] but they have their own laws and so we wait. 

He said it is not enough to have not actually committed murder, but that “when you conspire to commit murder under the law you are involved.”

Earlier this month, Police Commissioner Fuiavaili’ili Egon Keil told the Samoa Observer that any threat against the Prime Minister will not be taken lightly, calling such instances as threats against the whole country. 

“The Police Service will not sit idle when there are threats targeting the Prime Minister […] we will act accordingly.”

The full statement by Savalenoa is printed verbatim below:

EXTRADITION ‘POLITICALLY MOTIVATED’: AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL

The Attorney General of Samoa responds to the concerns by Global human rights watch-dog Amnesty International in the Samoa Observer Article dated 2 October 2020.

1. The Attorney General confirms that the Office has made a lawful request to the Australian Attorney Generals Department in February 2020, to extradite Mr. Talalelei Pauga who is alleged to have committed the offence of ‘conspiracy to commit murder’. ‘Conspiracy to commit murder’ is a serious offence under section 106 of the Crimes Act 2013, which carries a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

2. The Attorney General also confirms that Australia has honored Samoa’s extradition request in accordance with its obligations under Australia’s Extradition Act 1988 and Extradition (Samoa) Regulations 2010.

3. The Attorney General further confirms that Mr. Pauga is one of the principal defendants and should be tried together in Samoa, with his other two co-defendants Lema’i Faioso Sione and Malele Atofu Paulo, who have already been charged for this matter and are awaiting a hearing date. The Attorney General furthermore confirms that there is sufficient evidence to support the charge against Mr. Pauga. Given that the hearing of the other two co-defendants have yet to commence, the evidence surrounding the case cannot be disclosed at this stage.

4. The Attorney General is duty bound to pursue the extradition request of Mr. Pauga and institute criminal proceedings in Samoa as there is sufficient evidence to support the alleged offence committed by Mr. Pauga. The Attorney General is also mandated to uphold the Constitution of Samoa, which includes the right to a fair trial. At this stage the Attorney General is awaiting the outcome of the extradition proceedings in Australia.

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