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Goff welcomes Keke guilty verdict

Hon Phil Goff Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade

18 March 2005

Goff welcomes Keke guilty verdict

Foreign Minister Phil Goff today welcomed the guilty verdicts handed down to former Solomon Islands militia leader Harold Keke and his lieutenants Ronnie Cawa and Francis Lela.

The three men were today sentenced to life imprisonment by the Solomon Islands High Court for the August 2002 murder of Father Augustine Geve on the Weathercoast of the island of Guadalcanal. "The verdicts are welcome news, and I have no doubt they will be well received throughout the Solomon Islands," Mr Goff said.

"It will give the people of the Weathercoast confidence that the rule of law is being upheld by the courts. It will hopefully also encourage them to give evidence against other criminals. "Keke was the commander of the feared Guadalcanal Liberation Front, and prior to the deployment of the Regional Assistance Mission to the Solomon Islands (RAMSI), he controlled much of the remote Weathercoast.

"He and his followers are believed to be responsible for 50 or more murders, as well as the burning of many villages and the taking of hostages before he finally surrendered to RAMSI in August 2003.

"Keke's arrest, trial and now conviction are key achievements for RAMSI, and can be seen as milestones in the Solomon Islands gradual return to peace and stability."

Mr Goff said RAMSI had worked closely with the Solomon Islands government to restore an effective and fair justice system.

"Today's verdicts demonstrate that the Solomon Islands justice system is now able to uphold and enforce the law. It also shows that no person in the Solomon Islands is above the law, no matter how greatly they were feared in the past," Mr Goff said.

ENDS

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