Aaron Bunch Journalist with Australian Associated Press | Collection of published work | + 61 484 008 119 | abunch@aap.com.au

Aaron Bunch
Samoa wants pig-head chucker extradited

A man who threw a pig’s head in a Queensland church while Samoa’s prime minister was visiting faces extradition to the Pacific nation over conspiracy to murder.

September 22, 2020

The Samoan government wants to extradite a political activist who threw a pig’s head in a Queensland church to insult the Pacific nation’s prime minister before allegedly plotting to assassinate him.

Talalelei Pauga, 43, was charged with committing public nuisance after he hurled the head and yelled abuse at Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi, who was speaking at the church in November 2018.

He was also accused of dumping dog food and chicken manure on the floor at Logan’s St Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Parish, south of Brisbane, during the protest over alleged Samoan cultural land rights abuses.

Queensland prosecutors later dropped the public nuisance charge.

But Mr Pauga was rearrested and detained on August 20 after Samoa made an extradition request to the Commonwealth Attorney-General’s Department.

“The charges are serious. They involve an allegation of conspiracy to murder. Specifically, conspiracy to murder the Samoan prime minister,” Samoa’s lawyer Marc McKechnie told Brisbane Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

“Samoa has made a lawful extradition request and Australia has obligations under international law to comply with that extradition request.”

Two other men have been charged over the alleged assassination plot, according to various media outlets in Samoa.

Mr Pauga is accused of hiring a hitman, helping source a gun, and electronically transferring money to pay for the service, Samoa Global News says.

He and one of the other men charged are also reportedly members of Samoa Solidarity International Group, an activist group that says Samoa’s prime minister is running the country as a dictatorship.

Outside of court, SSIG president Malo Vaimoso said the allegations against Mr Pauga were politically motivated.

“We’re being targeted by the prime minister because we’ve raised human rights issues and are suing his government for breaching the constitution,” she told AAP.

Ms Vaimoso said an SSIG affiliated political party, named Samoa First, was also set to run against Mr Malielegaoi’s Human Rights Protection Party in the March election.

Mr Pauga’s legal team told the court they will fight the extradition application.

“Somebody is wanting Mr Pauga to go to Samoa and that somebody is the same person who made the request, the same person he is said to have plotted against,” defence lawyer Greg Finlayson said.

First, they’ve applied for him to be released from custody saying he had not been charged with an offence in Australia.

“He’s been in custody at least a month and that’s a long time for a man with a family and a business,” lawyer George Mancini said.

“Every day is a day in which his rights are being interfered with.”

Magistrate Belinda Merrin reserved her decision over Mr Pauga’s continued detention until Friday.

The extradition application will be heard at a date to be fixed.

Earlier, a business associate of Mr Pauga, who preferred not to be named, said his colleague was an Australian citizen who had lived in Brisbane for most of his life.

He said the father of four was also a well-known Samoan activist and had previously protested over issues, such as alleged misuse of international aid funds and the erosion of freedom of speech in the tiny Pacific nation.

“Throwing a pig’s head in Samoa is a cultural insult to show disgust,” he said,

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