Tonga will not stop trying to bring American accused to justice says Attorney General

Tonga will not stop trying to bring an American accused of murdering his Canadian wife to justice, according to Acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu.

Kefu was commenting after Dean Jay Fletcher was freed after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intervened to refuse Tonga’s request to extradite Fletcher for trial from Hawai’i.

As Kaniva News reported at the time, the Tongan government requested Fletcher’s extradition in December last year.

It is understood the US State Department explained its decision to free Fletcher by saying it was worried that Fletcher would have faced a death sentence or life in prison and that he would not have a free lawyer.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that Tillerson’s decision overturned an earlier ruling by a judge in the Hawai’ian capital that Fletcher could be handed over to Tongan authorities.

Attorney General Kefu described the decision as disappointing.

“We have very strong circumstantial evidence,” he told the Associated Press.

“We believe he’s committed a crime here in Tonga, and we won’t stop until we’re able to bring him to justice.”

Tonga could seek Fletcher’s extradition if he travelled to other countries, Kefu said.

Fletcher was charged with murder in Tonga in the July 2016 death of his Canadian wife, Patricia Linne Kearney.

Evidence presented to court in Honolulu said three  diving operators saw Fletcher assaulting his wife on a dinghy in the Vava’u group.

Tongan officials told US prosecutors that Fletcher kicked and punched his wife as they reached a boat called the Sea Oak.

Fletcher was arrested and jailed and escaped in September 2016. He sailed to American Samoa where he was arrested and transferred to Hawai’i.

In February Radio New Zealand reported that the Sea Oak had illegally left Pago Pago. It said  Tonga’s Attorney General had asked the US Government to return the yacht.

A US legal authority described the US Secretary of State’s action in refusing extradition as unusual because the United States had an extradition treaty with Tonga.

The Honolulu Star Advertiser quoted Allen S. Weiner, director of Stanford University’s programme in International and Comparative Law, as saying it was usually other countries that did not want to extradite their citizens to the United States when the death penalty was possible.

Kefu told U.S. officials it was unlikely the death penalty would have been imposed and that nobody in Tonga received free legal representation.

The case against Fletcher was solid, he said.

The main points

  • Tonga will not stop trying to bring an American accused of murdering his Canadian wife to justice, according to Acting Attorney General Aminiasi Kefu.
  • Kefu was commenting after Dean Jay Fletcher was freed after US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson intervened to refuse Tonga’s request to extradite Fletcher for trial from Hawai’i.
  • As Kaniva News reported at the time, the Tongan government requested Fletcher’s extradition in December last year.
  • The Honolulu Star Advertiser reported that Tillerson’s decision overturned an earlier ruling by a judge in the Hawai’ian capital that Fletcher could be handed over to Tongan authorities.

Sometimes when a business is growing, it needs a little help.

Right now Kaniva News provides a free, politically independent, bilingual news service for readers around the world that is absolutely unique. We are the largest New Zealand-based Tongan news service, and our stories reach Tongans  wherever they are round the world. But as we grow, there are increased demands on Kaniva News for translation into Tongan on our social media accounts and for the costs associated with expansion. We believe it is important for Tongans to have their own voice and for Tongans to preserve their language, customs and heritage. That is something to which we are strongly committed. That’s why we are asking you to consider sponsoring our work and helping to preserve a uniquely Tongan point of view for our readers and listeners.

Latest news

Related news