Court acquits PNG doctor and wife

Dr Maine Asapo, the doctor who was earlier accused of bringing the virus into the Solomon Islands
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The PNG doctor, who was wrongly accused by the Prime Minister as being Solomon Islands’ index covid-19 case, has been acquitted by the courts.

Dr Maine Asapo and his wife, along with two Solomon Islands locals, were charged with various counts for crossing the border into Solomon Islands during the state of emergency.

Prosecution yesterday withdrew the charges telling the Court that Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare had written them saying he wanted to deal with the matter “administratively”.

The doctor and his wife were charged with one count each of Prohibition of Entry of Non-citizens contrary to Clause 4 of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19)(Prohibition of Entry of Non-Citizens)Order 2020, read with Regulation 7(1)(3)(5)(a) and 7 of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19)(No. 3) Regulations 2021, and one count of Restrictions of Movement of Small Craft Vessels contrary to Clause 4(b)(c) of the Emergency Powers (Covid-10)(Restrictions of Movement of Small Craft Vessels)(Solomon Islands and Papua New Guinea Border) Order 2020, read with Regulation 17(1)(a)(i) and (3) of the Emergency Powers (Covid-19) Regulations (3) 2021.

Director of Public Prosecution Rachel Olutimayin informed the court in yesterday’s appearance that she received a letter from the Prime Minister, stating he has decided to deal with the matter administratively with the powers granted on him under regulation 58 sub regulation of the emergency powers COVID-19 no.3 regulation 2021. That regulation grants the PM the power to deal with people who are charged for border crossing to be dealt with administratively.

Ms Olutimayin said the PM also instructed that he has decided to issue a fine of $5000 on each of the defendants.

She made no objection to that request and withdrew the charge against the doctor and his wife under section 190(ii) b (i) of the Criminal Procedure Code.

In regards to other two defendants Abraham Nareau and Patteson Aloe DPP awaits instruction from the PM to change the charge against them, as there was an error on the charge.

Prosecution also said the two Banana boats that was used by the defendants to travel to Pelau from Tasman on January 9 2022 will be forfeited to the state.

Defence Lawyer George Gray also said that since the PM is involved in the case the court should be relying on that as they are now the relevant authority.

Magistrate Hollison after receiving the submissions from the prosecution to withdraw charge against the two PNG nationals Dr Asapo and Naomi Turena Temoa made orders pursuant to section 190(ii) B (i) of the CPC acquitted the two defendants, so that their case can administratively deal by PM.

Hollison also directed that no conviction recorded against the two and also, they were released and reside with their relatives awaiting the grant of their visas from immigration department.

Hollison told the couple that they are now free from the criminal proceedings, but their case will be dealt with by the Government administratively.

Meanwhile in regards to other two defendants Nareau and Aloe the court granted them $1000 each cash bail after their defence lawyer made a subsequent bail application.

They were released on bail awaiting their charges to be sorted out by the responsible authority.

Hollison also said that the defendants who were tested positive for covid 19 shall either join their family members and continue with home isolation or remain at the quarantine station until they are tested negative.

The court then adjourned the case of the Nareau and Aloe to today for further mention.