P.M's safety flagged, Attorney General fights for closed hearing
The Attorney General's Office has cited the safety of Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Dr. Sa'ilele Malielegaoi, as one of the reasons they are seeking a closed door bail hearing, for two men accused over an alleged conspiracy to assassinate the leader.
The issue was one of several matters raised in the Supreme Court on Thursday, when the prosecution sought to stop the media from reporting details of the bail hearing.
Lemai Faioso Sione and Malele Paulo, better known as King Faipopo, are accused of an alleged plot to assassinate the Prime Minister.
They both have pleaded not guilty to two charges of conspiring to murder Tuilaepa. Third suspect, Taualai Leiloa, has already pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiring to murder the Prime Minister while a fourth suspect from Australia remains at large.
On Thursday, the Attorney General’s Office sought the Court’s discretion to order a closed Court bail hearing and to exclude confidential information from the proceedings.
The prosecution also asked that the Court use affidavits from the "informers," instead of having them subjected to cross examination. The informers were identified as Taualai and Alatise Vitale.
In her submission, Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Su’a, said the orders will not prejudice the applicants and advancement of their bail hearing.
“The alleged victim’s safety remains an eminent issue as the second conspirator remains at large,” she told the Court.
“This (confidential) information, if made publicly available, it does mean the alleged victim’s residence becomes public information as well as his daily routines and his routine on Sundays.
“If such information becomes publicised through media reporting, it does open a scope of potential suspects and there will no longer be a narrow the scope of people that possess this information.”
The prosecution pointed out while the two suspects are in custody, the risk for Prime Minister Tuilaepa remains real and significant.
She urged the Court to take precautionary measures noting the likely harm if such information is made available and publicised by the media.
Furthermore, she said it is the responsibility of society to protect the privacy of the alleged victim, despite the fact that he is a public figure.
Prosecution made reference article 9 of the Constitution that states a right to a fair trial that public and representatives of news service may be excluded from all or part of the trial in the interests of morals, public order or national security.
Defence lawyer, Unasa Iuni Sapolu, opposed the application.
The lawyer said it is the interest of justice that the bail hearing be done in an open Court.
She argued that her clients should not continue to be incarcerated until they are proven guilty in Court.
She questioned why another accused, Taualai, had been granted bail despite pleading guilty while her clients who have denied the allegations are in custody.
Justice Mata Keli Tuatagaloa reminded the lawyer that the matter she is raising was before another Judge.
She added the matter before the Court was in relation to Lemai and Paulo.
About the confidential information, Unasa said it is in the interest of justice that the defense also looks at the "so-called confidential information."
Justice Tuatagaloa again intervened, pointing out that is for the Judge to decide.
Unasa continued to argue that the media are the eyes and ears of the public and therefore an open Court is desirable for justice.
“The Prime Minister is a public figure and is subject to public scrutiny," Unasa said. "It is imperative for the media to report and for the public to see open justice."
She also questioned the Police investigation, given the fact the Prime Minister is the Minister of Police.
The lawyer said there is a conflict of interest involved.
But Justice Tuatagaloa took issue with the matter raised by lawyer, pointing out that the media is not involved in the proceedings and that each case is dealt with by its circumstances.
Justice Tuatagaloa adjourned the matter and will notify counsels when her decision is ready.