Charge against anti-vaccination activist Tamasese dismissed

The District Court has ruled that there is no case to answer for anti-vaccination activist, Edwin Suliveta Tamasese, who was accused of undermining the Government’s mass vaccination campaign during the measles crisis last year.

The decision was delivered by District Court Judge, Alalatoa Rosella Viane-Papali'i on Monday morning. Tamasese had pleaded not guilty to one count of undermining the Government’s state of emergency order when he created a Facebook post which read: “Ill be there to mop up your mess, enjoy your killing spree”. 

Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio was his lawyer while Priscilla Betham – Auvaa was the prosecutor.

After the hearing on 12 December, the defence lawyer had filed an application of a no case to answer for Tamasese. 

In her decision, Judge Viane-Papalii, accepted the application, concluding that the charge against Tamasese dismissed. 

Although the Court does not accept suggestions that the Facebook page was a fake page, Judge Viane-Papalii said prosecution failed to establish the electronic chain of evidence to prove their case. 

“There is no evidence either to completely discharge the possibility that maybe somebody else posted the post on Edwin’s facebook page,” she pointed out. “It became more apparent during the course of trial that there was a complete lack of primary electronic evidence. 

“The disappointing part is the electronic evidence is readily available and during trial, the prosecuting counsel proceeded on shoddy evidence…” 

Judge Viane-Papalii also pointed out that there was no direct evidence from the accused’s timeline activity to establish chain of evidence against Tamasese. 

In relation to the post Tamasese was accused over, the Judge said the evidence does not suggest that his intention was to undermine the Government’s authority. She added that the evidence also does not suggest that Tamasese tried to stop people from getting vaccinated.  

“It is critical clear that there is no civil unrest that arose from that post allegedly made by Edwin Tamasese,” she said. 

From her observation, Judge Viane-Papalii said the prosecution and police should be more vigilant with cyber-crime and ensure the evidence is inadmissible and has verbatim weight. 

“A reminder to prosecution there is no shortcut to the administration of justice, the onus to prove criminal charge rests with prosecution,” she said. 

“The defendant doesn’t have to raise tip of his finger to prove his innocence he is innocent until prosecution proves otherwise.

“You failed to do so and the end result of this matter there is no case to answer and charge against Edwin Tamasese is therefore dismissed.” 

Asked for a comment, Tamasese said he was relived. He added that he had helped some of those with measles last year.

He also said he hoped that the real issues from the epidemic last year had come out of the trial. 

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