21 Apr 2017

Two Vanuatu politicians released from prison after 18 months

2:37 pm on 21 April 2017

Two senior Vanuatu politicians walked free from prison this morning, having served half of their sentences for corruption.

The former Prime Minister, Serge Vohor, and a former MP for Efate, Steven Kalsakau, were the first of 14 MPs who were jailed in 2015 to be granted parole.

Tony Nari, Serge Vohor (middle) and lawyer Robin Kababa outside court on Tuesday.

Serge Vohor (middle) and lawyer Robin Kababa outside court in 2015. Photo: RNZI / Hilaire Bule

A journalist in Port Vila, Evelyne Toa, said a crowd gathered to witness the politicians emerge through the gates at 10 o'clock, local time.

"There were a few family members waiting outside the entrance of the prison, a few supporters and members of their political parties [and] they walked out escorted by the current leader of the opposition."

Evelyne Toa said Mr Vohor and Mr Kalsakau only spoke briefly to the media, mostly to say they were thankful to have been granted parole.

She said the politicians are spending the afternoon meeting with supporters and party members, before a ceremony at a Port Vila kava bar tonight.

The Correctional Service said the parole board had received applications from 11 other inmates after the appeals court quashed their conspiracy convictions.

Under Vanuatu's Leadership Code, none of the convicted MPs will be able to stand for elected office until 2025.