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Application to extradite Samoan accused of murder plot quashed

Apia, SAMOA — An application to extradite a Samoan living in Australia, who is accused of plotting to assassinate a former Samoan Prime Minister, has been quashed by the Australian Federal Court.

The Samoa Observer reports Federal Court Justice Craig Colvin last Friday ordered that the committal of Talalelei Pauga, dated July 9, 2021, be quashed.

But he is to remain in custody until the court orders otherwise.

Pauga maintains that the extradition request was politically motivated.

He claims all the allegations against him were about things he is said to have done in Australia, but he was never questioned or charged by Australian police.

His lawyer, Greg Finlayson, said he is planning to meet with his client about the order to stay in custody, which he says was made by the Federal Court without notice to his client or the lawyers.

The case has been remitted to a magistrate.

"The proceedings, under the Extradition Act 1988 (Cth) in respect of which a warrant dated 14 July 2020 was issued, for the arrest of the applicant and in respect of which he was arrested, be remitted to a magistrate who has accepted the function and power to conduct proceedings under s 19 of the Extradition Act for such proceedings to be determined according to law," the Court further ruled.

Finlayson said that once the court had determined his client's committal to prison was unlawful, the Federal Court had no power to do anything except issue habeas corpus and release him.

"We are seeking to meet with our client, who remains in prison, to seek instructions to set aside the order of remand which was made by the Federal Court without notice to our client or his solicitors."

Two people have been jointly charged by Samoan police over an alleged conspiracy to assassinate former prime minister, Tuilaepa Sa'ilele Malielegaoi with their trial listed for February 2023.