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A man has pleaded guilty to being part of a conspiracy to assassinate Samoan Prime Minister, Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi.
But in doing so, Taualai Leiloa, alleged that he was pressured by his village of Lauli'i to plead guilty.
The accused had been due to front a hearing to vacate his guilty plea on Friday.
However, his lawyer, Fuimaono Sarona Ponifasio, told the Court that despite legal preparations and advice given to her client about the seriousness of the charge, he was persuaded to plead guilty.
“The defendant had raised concerns with the village council and so wants to withdraw the application to vacate his plea and maintain his guilty plea no matter the consequences,” said Fuimaono.
Leiloa is facing two counts of conspiracy to murder Tuilaepa. He is accused along with Malele Paulo, also known as King Faipopo, and Lemai Faioso Sione.
Paulo and Lemai have pleaded not guilty to the charges and are in custody.
Fuimaono also raised concerns about the behaviour of the prosecution's Investigating Officer, Sergeant Afamasaga, in relation to the defendant’s case.
But the Assistant Attorney General, Magele Leone Sua, rejected the claims. She told Justice, Tafaoimalo Leilani Tuala – Warren, that she was present inside the Court all morning where the accused tried to approach the senior police officer before the matter was called.
Given the application from the defence lawyer, Justice Tafaoimalo granted the application to withdraw the request to vacate Leiloa’s guilty plea. His guilty plea has been maintained.
In relation to allegation on pressures placed on the defendant, Justice Tafaoimalo told a Court filled with matai (chiefs) from Lauli’i that she had faith in the chiefs that that is not happening.
Another matter raised in the Court was an application from the prosecution for a stay of proceedings involving Leiloa until the two other co-defendants are dealt with in the Supreme Court.
Fuimaono emphasised that the charge of conspiracy to murder has a penalty of life imprisonment.
She pointed out she had looked in the legislation to find any leeway to assist the defendant given his guilty plea but found the penalty of life imprisonment should be imposed forthwith.
She further said it would not matter if the sentence was delayed or made after the other Court proceedings as the defendant is liable to face a life sentence in any circumstance.
Justice Tafaoimalo asked the matter to be adjourned until Tuesday next week for the lawyers to discuss application to the sentencing of the defendant.
SOURCE: SAMOA OBSERVER/PACNEWS
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