18 Jan 2011

Tonga's Ashika trials due in three weeks

8:46 am on 18 January 2011

Tonga's Ashika manslaughter trials will begin in the Nuku'alofa Supreme Court on February 7th before Justice Robert Schuster.

The trial date was confirmed at a pre trial conference held yesterday.

The Ashika ferry was operated by the government-owned Shipping Corporation of Polynesia (SCP), whose CEO, New Zealand businessman John Jonesse, will go on trial, along with ferry captain Makahokovalu Tuputupu, first mate Semisi Pomale and former Ministry of Transportation director Viliami Tu'ipulotu.

The four accused, along with the company which operated the vessel, are each charged with manslaughter by negligence, over the death of young mother Vae Fetu'u Taufa, one of the 74 people who died in the Ashika ferry sinking in 2009.

Matangi Tonga Online reports the Crown Counsel, Sione Sisifa, as saying the jury trial for all five accused is expected to run for at least a month and the Crown is expected to call up to 30 witnesses to give evidence.

The Counsel for the defence confirmed they are ready to proceed with the trial.