15 Sep 2005

Pardon given to three PNG soldiers convicted over Sandline crisis

7:40 pm on 15 September 2005

Papua New Guinea's governor-general Sir Paulius Matane has pardoned three soldiers involved in the 1997 Sandline crisis on the occasion of the country's 30th anniversary of independence.

The three are Capt Belden Namah, Capt Bola Renagi and Lt Linus Osaba.

Sir Paulias used his constitutional powers to order the release of the three men on the advice of the National Executive Council.

The National newspaper reports that they were found guilty five years ago of playing key roles in throwing out the Sandline mercenaries from the country and jailed for between six and eight years each..

The South African-based mercenaries, led by former British colonel Tim Spicer, were brought into the country by the Sir Julius Chan Government to help security forces quell the Bougainville uprising.

Jerry Singirok, the commander of the PNG Defence Forces at the time, had instigated the removal of the mercenaries.

Mr Singirok, who is now chairman of the National Guns Committee, was acquitted of sedition in 2002.

The three officers have been on parole for the past 3 years.

The pardon means they are now completely free.