24 May 2012

Police in PNG questioning Chief Justice after Deputy PM earlier tries to arrest him

8:37 pm on 24 May 2012

Police in Papua New Guinea have taken the Chief Justice in for questioning on allegations of sedition.

This comes after spectacular events at the Supreme and National Courts building in Port Moresby, when the caretaker deputy prime minister, Belden Namah, heading a team of soldiers and police stormed into Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia's courtroom.

Mr Namah has been angry at Monday's Supreme Court ruling that the rival Somare faction is the country's legal government.

He has accused Sir Salamo Injia of treason and sedition for bringing down the ruling.

Mr Namah told journalists at the court to leave, saying he intended taking the Chief Justice into custody on treason and sedition charges.

But police say Mr Namah was at the court because Sir Salamo had issued a court order for his arrest.

A police spokesperson says they are speaking with Sir Salamo at the Waigani police station and acting on a formal complaint by the caretaker prime minister, Peter O'Neill.

While the court house was surrounded by police and soldiers Sir Salamo spoke with AAP from his chambers.

He appealed to the police and army to defend the constitution.

Sir Salamo says it is sad day for the courts and for democracy.

He says it is unprecedented and PNG is being run by men who are happy to use force rather than the rule of law.

Sir Salamo says Belden Namah does not have the power to direct the police force or the defence force.

The spokesman for Transparency International in Papua New Guinea, Lawrence Stephens, says they are appalled by the actions of Belden Namah.

"We were horrified to hear that the deputy prime minister invaded the court house and the actual court in which the Chief Justice was hearing a case. We can't understand under what authority a member of parliament or deputy prime minister would behave in this manner, and we find it just appalling."

Transparency PNG's Lawrence Stephens.