21 Mar 2011

Closing arguments in Tonga's Princess Ashika trial begin today

6:25 am on 21 March 2011

The counsels in the Princess Ashika trial in Tonga begin their closing arguments today.

The Shipping Corporation of Polynesia, its former director John Jonesse, the Ashika's skipper, Maka Tuputupu, first mate Semisi Pomale, and the acting director of marine, Viliami Tu'ipulotu are charged in relation to the sinking of the Ashika on August 5, 2009.

The tragedy led to the deaths of 74 people.

The trial in Tonga's capital, Nukualofa, has been sitting for over three weeks with the Crown closing its case last week.

The five counsel representing the four accused told the court they would not give evidence nor would they be calling any witnesses.

Justice Robert Shuster then asked each defendant and representing counsels whether they understood their right.

Matangi Tonga reports that all the defendants replied they understood and elected to remain silent.