12 | 27
2010

The Moti affair: The ‘rule of law’ sinks under the weight of AFP mendaciousness

Categories: Rule of Law

by: Bakchos
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After having mentioned the Moti affair in my posts a number of times, it has been brought to my attention that a number of my readers may be unaware of the extent of Australian Federal Police involvement this international miscarriage of justice. Mr. Julian Moti, a well-known international constitutional lawyer and former attorney-general of the Solomon Islands, was arrested and detained by Australian Federal Police on December 27, 2007 following his extradition from the Solomon Islands. He was charged with seven counts under the Child Sex Tourism Act, carrying a maximum penalty of 17 years imprisonment. Moti made a number of appearances before courts in Brisbane before his case was finally thrown out by Justice Mullins of the Queensland Supreme Court on 16 December 2009, two years after his illegal extradition to Australia.

Moti’s deportation and arrest marked a new low in the vicious witch-hunt that was conducted out over a number of years by the Australian Government. Though the charges against him were eventually dismissed, Moti remains the victim of a grave injustice. An examination of the facts of the case leaves no doubt that the extradition, based on trumped-up child sex allegations thrown out of court by a Vanuatu magistrate in 1998, rests on the systematic manipulation and violation of established legal statutes and precepts. The entire affair has been driven by the Australian Government’s determination to politically destroy a non-white individual identified as an obstacle to colonial interests.

Moti was extradited following the ousting of the former Solomon Islands government of Manasseh Sogavare through a parliamentary no-confidence vote on December 13, 2007. The new administration, headed by Prime Minister Derek Sikua, immediately sacked Moti as attorney-general and moved to deport him in order to prove its pro-Australian credentials to Canberra. The Solomon Islands police, forced Moti from his home in that nations capital, Honiara, and onto a plane bound for Australia, in blatant violation of an earlier interim order issued by the Central Magistrates Court that his deportation be stayed pending an appeal to the Solomon islands Court of Appeal. The unlawful character of Moti’s deportation serves to highlight once again the Australian Governments blatant disregard for the ‘rule of law’ when the appropriate application of its principles could have adverse party political implications for Canberra.

The origins of the affair go back to July 2003, when the former Howard Government deployed more than 2,000 Australian soldiers, police, and officials to take over the Solomon Islands. This neo-colonial operation, known as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI), was motivated by concern that rival powers such as China were gaining ground in the South Pacific, a region long regarded by the Australian ruling elite as its sphere of influence. Coming just weeks after the illegal US-led invasion of Iraq, RAMSI marked a turning point, with Canberra openly disregarding international law and national sovereignty. With the full support of Labor and the Greens, the Howard government heralded RAMSI as the model for potential interventions in other neighboring countries, including the resource-rich and strategically significant former Australian colony, Papua New Guinea.

Moti was targeted because he was a known opponent of this agenda.

In April 2006, the Solomon Islands Government of Allen Kemakeza, which had functioned as little more than a fig-leaf for RAMSI’s rule, suffered a major defeat in the national elections. Kemakeza was later succeeded by Sogavare, who quickly came into conflict with Canberra after he called for a RAMSI “exit strategy” and made limited moves to reduce the Australian authorities’ domination of the Solomon Islands administration and state apparatus. Sogavare also announced plans to establish a Commission of Inquiry into the riots which erupted in Honiara on April 16-17, 2007 in response to Kemakeza’s and his cronies’ efforts to hold onto power, despite being trounced in the national vote, through a series of allegedly corrupt deals with fellow parliamentarians.

The Howard government and RAMSI authorities reacted with undisguised fury to the proposed Commission of Inquiry. Significant evidence indicates that Australian soldiers and police in Honiara were deliberately stood down during the riots to facilitate the maximum destruction, providing the pretext for the additional deployment of Australian forces and possible direct intervention into the post-election political crisis. Any exposure of Canberra’s culpability would have had devastating consequences for its operations throughout the Pacific as well as in the Solomon Islands.

Moti was centrally involved in the official inquiry, having established the terms of reference and recommended former Australian Federal Court Justice Marcus Einfeld to head the commission. Soon after Sogavare publicly announced this appointment, the Australian press ran a series of sensationalised stories attacking Einfeld, ostensibly over an unpaid $77 speeding fine. The orchestrated witch-hunt delayed the commission’s work for months after Einfeld was forced to withdraw. On 20 March 2009, Einfeld was sentenced to three years in prison for knowingly making a false statement under oath and for attempting to pervert the course of justice, with a non-parole period of two years. Supreme Court Justice Bruce James found Einfeld had committed “deliberate, premeditated perjury” that was “part of planned criminal activity”. However, Einfeld denies being dishonest, saying: “I don’t think I’m the slightest bit dishonest. I just made a mistake”.

Behind the statutory rape allegation

Australian authorities found a convenient pretext for their campaign against Moti in statutory rape allegations previously issued against him in Vanuatu in 1997-1998. Former foreign minister Alexander Downer and other senior Australian officials repeatedly insinuated that Moti was a pedophile and demanded his extradition under Australia’s Child Sex Tourism Act.

This demand was based on a cynical perversion of the legislation. The Act was intended to allow the prosecution of child sex offenders who commit crimes while travelling overseas and then evade investigation by returning to Australia. One section explicitly rules out “double jeopardy” prosecutions: “If a person has been convicted or acquitted in a country outside Australia of an offence against the law of that country in respect of any conduct, the person cannot be convicted of an offence against this Part in respect of that conduct” (Section 50FC, Crimes [Child Sex Tourism] Amendment Act 1994).

Moti was living and working in Vanuatu in the late 1990s and had established a highly regarded law firm in the capital, Port Vila. In July 1998, a local court dismissed the statutory rape allegations against him in a preliminary inquiry. After reviewing the public prosecutor’s case, the presiding magistrate described the attempted prosecution as “unjust and oppressive” and ordered that Moti’s costs be covered by the state. The prosecutor provided no physical evidence, and the case relied solely on the testimony of the alleged victim, then a 13-year-old girl, which featured a series of anomalies, inconsistencies, and claims that were later definitively disproved.

A 116-page document on the Moti affair released by the former Solomon Islands Government last August suggests that the allegations were concocted by the girl’s father, a businessman who had been defended by Moti’s law firm in cases involving his non-payment of debts. According to the document, Moti’s political enemies in the Vanuatu establishment encouraged and assisted the prosecution in order to sideline him.

Vanuatu police and prosecution officials dropped their investigations after the case was thrown out of court. Moti continued to work in a number of Pacific countries and frequently travelled to Australia without incident. The child sex allegations suddenly re-emerged only in early 2005—at precisely the time Canberra was becoming concerned that Moti would soon be appointed the Solomon Islands Attorney-General by the Kemakeza government.

The Kemakeza government subsequently declined to appoint Moti—likely under Australian pressure—and Mr. Moti took up an academic position in India. The AFP interest in Mr. Moti then ceased, that was until Mr. Sogavare came to office and announced a Commission of Inquiry into the riots which erupted in Honiara on April 16-17. This inquiry had the potential to implicate the AFP and the Australian Government in some underhanded dealings in the Solomon Islands in the lead up to and the aftermath of the riots. The degree of urgency of the AFP’s investigations has, at every stage, coincided with Canberra’s political imperatives.

Even before the Sogavare Government came to power and the Commission of Inquiry was proposed, Moti was regarded as hostile to Australian interests. He was on record as being critical of Canberra’s neo-colonialism in the South Pacific and had argued that the legality of the Australian occupying force’s presence in the Solomon Islands could be challenged before the International Court of Justice.

Not a shred of evidence has been advanced by the Australian Federal Police or the Australian Government to explain why Moti should be re-tried on the 1998 charges. The former Sogavare Government repeatedly declared that it would commence extradition proceedings if Canberra provided such evidence, but none was forthcoming. The Howard Government simply continued to repeat its malicious insinuations. Sections of the Australian media cited unnamed officials who claimed that Moti had bribed the Vanuatu magistrate—a slanderous accusation that does not even make logical sense, since it fails to explain why police and prosecutors dropped their investigation after the case was dismissed.

The only substantive account of the entire affair was advanced by the former Solomon Islands Government, whose 116-page document—which was released in the form of a series of questions directed to Australia’s federal director of public prosecutions—provided a detailed account of Canberra’s criminal conduct. Australian authorities have never responded to the damning evidence outlined in this document.

The aftermath

Mr. Moti had all the charges brought against him by the Australian Federal Police dismissed. Former justice of the Federal Court Marcus Einfeld is currently serving a two to three year prison sentence even though he continues to proclaim his innocence. The Australian Federal Police tried a similar tactic with Mr. Marten, he served 940 days in a Queensland jail and is now suing the Australian Government for 25 Million dollars, because the Australian Federal Police either withheld or neglected to collected evidence vital evidence from the Australian Immigration Department which the Queensland Court of Appeal used to quash Mr. Marten’s conviction.

It is worth noting that both Moti and Marten are Australians of non-European extraction and were victims of Australian Federal Police racially/politically motivated criminality.

Again I’m forced to ask, is there a place for a politicized, racist and unaccountable police force in a modern democracy like Australia?

2 Comments

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