Fletcher could be extradited under Tonga-US extradition treaty but involves “complex legal issues”, AG says

The US murder suspect that escaped a Police cell in Tonga before he turned up in American Samoa on Tuesday could be extradited to Tonga under an extradition treaty between the kingdom and the United States.

And Tonga have applied for “a provisional arrest warrant of the Accused to be issued by the United States Federal Court, pending a formal application for extradition to be sent through diplomatic channels” on October 5.

But this was not an easy process and Tonga’s Attorney General’s Office warned it could take much longer than expected.

Dean Jay Fletcher, 54, was facing murder charges in Vava’u in connection with the death of his Canadian wife, Patricia Linne Kearney on 6 July 2016, at Neiafu, Vava’u.

While awaiting his trial he escaped on his yacht from police custody on 29 September 2016.

A Police hunt shortly located him but after threatening about himself and burning the Police boat Vava’u Police held back.

On Tuesday Fletcher turned up in Pago pago where he was arrested for breaching the country’s custom law.

Tonga’s Office of the Attorney General has contacted the United States authority to return Fletcher to Tonga to face his murder charges.

American Samoa is part of the United States.

“After being informed by the Police Commissioner that the Accused had absconded from Tonga, and arrived at American Samoa, this Office made immediate contact on 4 October 2016 with counterparts at the United States Department of Justice in Washington D.C., USA, and American Samoa, in order to commence an extradition process with a view to return the Accused to the Kingdom to be tried for the charges laid against him”, a statement from the AG Office said.

Fletcher was also charged with manslaughter or causing grievous harm, interference with the course of justice, and two counts of escape from lawful custody of Tonga Police, the statement said.

“Tonga and the United States are a party to an extradition treaty that was re-affirmed on 13 April 1977 to apply between Tonga and the United States. This Treaty applies to American Samoa as a territory of the United States.

“The Attorney General’s Office is now awaiting advice from United States authorities on the progress of its application for a provisional arrest warrant against the Accused, and confirmation of the process and legal requirements for an extradition request to the United States to return the Accused from American Samoa”, it said.

“At the same time this Office is currently preparing the normal information required for a formal extradition request for the Accused to be sent through diplomatic channels to the United States Government once the process and information required is confirmed from the United States authorities.

“Extradition is a legally complicated process that would involve determination of complex legal issues through all legal avenues in foreign courts, and therefore it is likely to take some time to complete”.

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