8 Mar 2007

Militants on hunger strike in Solomon Islands jail over denial of amnesty

8:08 pm on 8 March 2007

The Solomon Island Public solicitor says six Malaitan Eagle Force militants are on hunger strike to protest against a decicision not to grant them amnesty.

Ken Averre says the six, who stand accused of murdering a 15 year old boy are are currently being held in a Solomon Islands prison, were disappointed by the Judge's decision.

In a pre-trial hearing, Justice Mwanesalua agreed to grant amnesty for the charge of attempted murder.

But he denied them amnesty for the murder charge on the grounds that it violated the sanctity of human life as set down in the country's constitution.

This is the second case of militants applying for amnesty under the provisions laid down by the Townsville Peace Agreement in October 2000.

Last year, two men who were accused of abduction and murder, were granted amnesty for the first charge but the murder is still under investigation.

Mr Averre says they were surprised that their case did not go the same way.

"I think very strong arguments were put forward in court as to why the amnesty would be applicable in the circumstances of the case so to that extent they were surprised that amnesty wasn't granted. But of course at the end of day there's no real prediction or guarantee in terms of whether or not you will be successful in your arguments in court."

The strikers' health is being monitored by prison authorities.