31 Jan 2005

Militant leader, Harold Keke's, trial underway in Solomon Islands

2:10 pm on 31 January 2005

The trial is now underway in Solomon Islands of the prominent militant leader, Harold Keke.

The former Guadalcanal Liberation Front leader is accused of murdering a cabinet minister more than 2 years ago.

Keke was the first rebel leader arrested by the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands nearly 18 months ago, and is the first to go to trial.

The 34-year old, and two associates, are each charged with the murder of Father Augustine Geve, on Guadalcanal's Weathercoast in August 2002.

It is the first of what will be a series of trials for Keke, who has been charged with nine other counts of murder, and arson, abduction and theft.

Many prosecution witnesses scheduled to appear in this trial are reported to have declined to do so, apparently because of fear of intimidation from Keke's supporters.

The defence is being funded as part of Australia's aid to the Solomon Islands' judiciary.