29 Jul 2002

Vanuatu government says opposition politicises Sope conviction

3:35 pm on 29 July 2002

The Vanuatu government says the opposition wants to make a political issue out of the judicial process which led to the jailing of Barak Sope on fraud charges.

The former prime minister and opposition politician was convicted by the supreme court in New Zealand-funded proceedings which the opposition says amount to an interference in Vanuatu's affairs.

The opposition and Sope supporters have now asked the president to pardon him for tomorrow's independence day celebrations ten days into a three-year sentence.

A government spokesman, Daniel Bangtor, says the ruling will work as a deterrent and also show that the judiciary functions.

"from the office of the Prime Minister's point of view I think it proves our legal system is still at work, we have always received negative comments that laws are only for the small people I think this case indicates that law is for everybody"

Daniel Bangtor says the government has no comment about the pardon request but says a decision would have to be made on the advice of a committee.