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Police charge PNG chief justicePapua New Guinea's Chief Justice, Sir Salamo Injia, is expected to appear in court today after being charged with trying to obstruct a police investigation into his management of funds.
Sir Salamo was arrested in Port Moresby early on Tuesday afternoon about three hours after being taken into police custody.
Police spokesman Superintendent Dominic Kakas says Sir Salamo has been charged with obstructing a police investigation into his alleged intervention in the handling of a dead judge's estate.
Police allege the chief justice illegally redirected into court coffers K213, 000 (US$100, 000) meant for the son of the late Justice Timothy Hinchliffe.
“In 2009 the complaint was made,” Kakas said.
“We allege Sir Salamo Injia intervened and ordered the cheque be recalled and had a new cheque made to the court's staff services.”
A silent Sir Salamo would not respond to questions from journalists as he was led from police headquarters to Boroko jail cells, where he was formally charged.
He was immediately released on his own recognisance, a type of bail in which no money is paid, and is expected to appear at Waigani local court at 1100 AEDT on Wednesday.
The Queensland Bar Association has registered concern at the arrest, warning it has the potential to set an uncomfortable precedent.
“What needs to be established is that the arrest was the result of an independent police investigation and not the result of higher-level executive government interference,” president of the association Roger Traves SC said in a statement.
“The executive must respect the judiciary, decisions of the court and the rule of law. To do otherwise is to reject the due performance by the court of its constitutional obligations, and hence to reject the constitution.”
At a press conference in Port Moresby on Tuesday, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said he was not aware of the arrest and was expecting a briefing from Internal Security Minister John Boito.
“I have no detail on that,” O'Neill told reporters.
Boito was seen at police headquarters on Tuesday morning, before a convoy of police vehicles escorted Sir Salamo to Boroko to be charged.
In December, Sir Salamo presided over the Supreme Court decision that found Prime Minister O'Neill and his supporters did not follow due constitutional process when they dumped former Prime Minister Sir Michael Somare from the top job.
The government made numerous attempts to remove him from the case, citing a conflict of interest.
In February, O'Neill suspended Sir Salamo from active duty, pending an investigation by a tribunal of former judges into his handling of court funds.
An attempt in November to suspend him on the same charges landed Deputy Prime Minister Belden Namah and Attorney-General Dr Allan Marat briefly in jail.
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