Samoan politicians sentenced to death

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The Independent Online

Two former Samoan government ministers have been sentenced to hang on the South Pacific island for plotting the murder of a cabinet colleague who had spearheaded a drive against corruption.

Andrew Wilson, presiding judge in the Supreme Court trial in the capital, Apia, on Thursday upheld the verdict delivered by a five-man panel of elders on Leafa Vitale, 57, the former women's affairs minister, and Toi Aukuso, 68, former communications minister.

Murder carries a mandatory death sentence in Samoa, but the men are unlikely to hang; all such sentences have been commuted to life since the country became independent from New Zealand in 1961.

Vitale and Aukuso were found guilty of ordering the assassination of Luagalau Levaula Kamu, the Public Works Minister, who was shot in the back at a political gathering last July. Vitale's son, Alatise, admitted pulling the trigger and at first denied his father had been involved. Later he testified that he and Aukuso were behind the killing. Alatise Vitale's death sentence was reduced to life imprisonment.

Mr Kamu was appointed to clean up public life in Samoa, and the two men are believed to have plotted his death to prevent him revealing widespread bribery and corruption.