BY SUSAN MERRELL
AS PNG ATTITUDE REPORTED earlier this week, in a decision handed down by the High Court of Australia, Julian Moti, former attorney general of the Solomon Islands, was granted a permanent stay of prosecution against charges arising from an alleged incident in Vanuatu in 1997.
In a majority decision of six judges to one, the Court deemed that, in an abuse of process, Australian officials had facilitated his deportation from Solomon Islands to Australia knowing that the deportation was unlawful.
The six justices, led by Chief Justice French, based their judgment on the knowledge of Australian officials, both in Canberra and Honiara, of the expressed opinion of the Acting High Commissioner of Solomon Islands, Ms. Heidi Bootle, (being correct) as to the illegality of the deportation and their subsequent willingness to facilitate the unlawful act by supply of travel documents.
In combination this formed an abuse of process that justified a permanent stay of prosecution, according to the Court.
Speaking from Sydney, Mr Moti said, "Justice has finally triumphed here today," "The rule of law has finally prevailed over Australian executive lawlessness."
Likening his deportation to kidnapping, Mr Moti explained: "‘Operation Rouge’ was the code name devised for the Australian Government’s mission to criminally accuse, capture, kidnap, remove, eliminate and silence a dissident Australian who dared to challenge Australian imperialism in the South Seas."
Julian Moti was first arrested in 2006 on charges of child-sex tourism when in transit in Papua New Guinea, en route to take up his new position as attorney general of the Solomon Islands.
The charges arose from an incident, almost a decade earlier, where he was accused of having unlawful intercourse with an underage girl while resident in Vanuatu. The charges had been thrown out of a Vanuatu court in its early stages.
Mr Moti always maintained the Australian charges were politically motivated - an attempt, by the Australian authorities, led by the then Australian High Commissioner, Patrick Cole, to prevent his political appointment which was seen as contrary to Australia's national interests.
"It was in Australia’s “national interest” that I be removed from my official post and continuing influence in the Pacific region - at any cost," stated Mr Moti.
Mr. Moti's subsequent irregular flight out of Papua New Guinea and the refusal of the then Prime Minister of the Solomon Islands, Manasseh Sogavare to cooperate with the Australian authorities in his extradition caused diplomatic relations between the three countries to sink to an all-time low.
Speaking from Honiara, a jubilant and relieved Mr Manasseh Sogavare, the Solomon Islands' Prime Minister who appointed Mr Moti as his attorney general said: "I am so pleased. This matter has hung like a dark cloud over me and my government"
"This decision has vindicated me," he added. "It proves that I was right all along."
Mr Moti's deportation occurred after a successful vote of 'no confidence' in the Sogavare government saw him being replaced as Prime Minister by Dr Derek Sikua who facilitated Mr Moti's deportation.
With this decision, the High Court of Australia has brought to a close almost six years of what Mr Moti described as a "nightmare".
"Never before has any Australian citizen been subjected, as I have, to the infliction of this kind of professional humiliation and personal persecution by its own Government," he said. "Never again should Australians let their Government destroy the reputation, rights, career and life of a fellow citizen for no legitimate and sensible reason."
A spokesman for Mr Moti says he now hopes the Gillard government will act responsibly... that it will investigate what went wrong, why ... and especially who was responsible.
The Australian Federal police were contacted for comment, and, at time of going to press, were still in the process of preparing their response