Accused P.M. assassination plotter argues Australian detainment unlawful
Talalelei Pauga, the Australian man Samoa is seeking to extradite over claims he conspired to assassinate the Prime Minister will argue he has been illegally detained for nearly 12 weeks.
Mr. Pauga resides in Brisbane in the Australian state of Queensland. His lawyers will be seeking his release in a December hearing in Queensland’s Supreme Court arguing his detention by that Australian state has been illegal.
On Friday, his lawyers applied to the Supreme Court of Queensland for a writ of habeas corpus (a petition for a prisoner to be physically brought before the court); they are also seeking an explanation for his detention.
Lawyers representing Samoa submitted that Pauga’s should not be granted leave from incarceration.
Mr. Pauga will not be released but instead presiding Supreme Court Justice Glenn Martin ruled both parties can argue about the legal basis of his incarceration.
He set a date for Wednesday 16 December to hold a one-day hearing in the Supreme Court of Queensland over whether Mr. Pauga’s detention is lawful.
The separate question of his extradition will be heard separately by a magistrate on Monday 7 December and Thursday 10 December.
Until then Mr. Pauga remains in custody at the Arthur Gorrie Correctional Centre.
Mr. Pauga was first arrested on Thursday 20 August following an extradition request by Samoa; over a month later he saw a magistrate for the first time.
He is wanted by the Samoan Government to face charges of conspiracy to commit murder, on allegations he and others conspired to kill Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr. Sailele Malielegaoi.
Mr. Pauga is scheduled to appear on Monday 7 December and Thursday 10 December over the separate issue of his extradition, a matter which is before a magistrate.
Samoa and Australia have a non-treaty based extradition relationship, based on the Extradition (Samoa) Regulations 2010, which is under the Extradition Act 1988.
As it is not a treaty, Australia has no legal obligations under international law to honour Samoa’s request.
It is up to the Attorney General to make extradition decisions on a case-by-case basis if a person is found to be eligible for extradition.
Pauga’s representation Diaspora Legal is fundraising for his legal costs online and has so far garnered AU$4,760 in donations (T$9,002).
A petition to the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights in Australia has been filed and gathered seven signatures; a similar online petition on the petitions.net website has 460 signatures.
The petitions are calling for a review on laws that allow Australians to be extradited to Samoa, including rules that do not require Samoa produce evidence when making an extradition request. Countries making extradition requests of Australia need only provide an outline of an accused person’s alleged crimes and not evidence of them.
Samoa has yet to provide any evidence and does not have to; that worries Amnesty International Pacific Researcher Kate Shuetze.
“I think there is a real risk this is a politically motivated charge,” Ms. Scheutze told the Samoa Observer in October.
“You have an individual who has been quite critical of the Government and its policies, and to some degree has probably been deeply offensive of the Prime Minister, but that in and of itself is not a crime.
“We really need to know what the evidence is being brought by the Samoan Government in this case so the extradition request can be considered in light of any credible evidence they might have.”