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Thirteen people have been arrested in Mendi over the June 14 burning of a passenger plane in the Southern Highlands capital of Papua New Guinea.
Although 15 arrests were made last Friday, one person was released while police transported 13 to Mt Hagen, Western Highlands, and were being held at the police cells waiting to be charged.
Assistant Commissioner of Police crimes and acting divisional commander Western End Hodges Ette confirmed the arrests but did not elaborate.
The 13 suspects appeared at the Mt Hagen Committal Court under heavy police escort and their charges read to them by magistrate Lydia Karre during a special hearing.
The suspects were hit with 10 charges each, mostly multiple cases of arson, by police prosecutors.
Eight arson and one assault and inciting violence and disturbing peace charges were laid against each of the suspects.
The arson cases relates to the burning of a Link PNG aircraft, Governor’s residence, Court House, DPI building, South West Air office and tool shed on the afternoon of June 14 after the National Court in Waigani dismissed an election petition against Governor William Powi by Joseph Kobol.
Magistrate Karre refused bail due to the nature of the crimes but told the suspects they could appeal to the National Court if they wanted bail.
The suspects, whose ages range from 19 to 45, are from Mendi-Munihu District (nine), Imbongu district (two), Ialibu (one) all from Southern Highlands and Laiagam (one) from Enga Province.
The police prosecution team led by Sergeant Michael Awagl said more charges against the suspects were likely.
The remandees would be moved to either Barawagi in Chimbu or Bihute in Eastern Highlands within the week.
The National Government declared a state-of-emergency, they suspended the provincial government and deployed a company of PNG Defence Force soldiers to the Southern Highlands and nearby Hela and Enga provinces to maintain peace. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill later said the suspension of the provincial government was legally erroneous.
The Mendi investigation taskforce team of detectives from Mt Hagen, Port Moresby and several other provinces, tasked with investigating the Mendi turmoil, made the arrests after a month of investigation and information collecting. More arrests are expected to be made as investigations continue.
The second phase of the investigation is yet to be executed but headway has been made and their men are digging in to effect the arrest of those who gave the orders for the destruction of a Dash 8 aircraft at the airport and several buildings in Mendi on June 14.
Several high profile local leaders are under the microscope of the second phase of investigation.
The 30-man investigating team is made up of five detectives each from Lae, Goroka, Madang, Chimbu, Mount Hagen and Port Moresby.
SOURCE: POST COURIER/PACNEWS
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