14 May 2004

Nauru MPs on sedition charge face jail term, says report

10:28 am on 14 May 2004

There are reports that MPs in Nauru have been charged with sedition following a protest over the government's handling of a debt crisis.

Australia's News Limited website reports, a spokeswoman for the Nauru government, Helen Bogdan, as saying, it is alleged, that four opposition MPs, prevented President Harris' plane from taking off from Nauru's airport, on April 23, and resisted, police attempts to move them.

The MPs are reported as being David Adeang, Kieren Keke, Fabian Ribauw and Baron Waqa.

All four MPs were charged with sedition, riot, riotous behaviour, disturbing the peace, assaulting police and disobedience to a statute law, Ms Bogdan told News Limited.

If convicted, the four may face at least 14 years in prison.

Mr Harris was due to visit China in order to strike a deal to refinance Nauru's debt after the US company General Electric Capital Corporation moved to recover debts of more than 158 million US dollars from Nauru.

Last week, Mr Harris signed a memorandum of understanding with an Asian property group to refinance the debt but the deal has not been formalised, Ms Bogdan said.

In other reported developments, the Nauru government yesterday asked that Australian police remain unarmed when they are to be deployed to Nauru in coming weeks.

And tomorrow a group of Australian human rights activists are reported to be setting sail from Sydney to visit the island.

But the Nauru government is said to be warning the activists they risk having their vessels confiscated and sold if they try to land.