Samoa: Political activist extradited from Australia to face charges
Civic space in Samoa is rated as ‘open’ by the CIVICUS Monitor. However, there have been concerns about defamation charges brought against critics, and challenges for journalists in accessing state information.
In September 2023, a Samoan political activist who was fighting his extradition in Australia was handed over to Samoan authorities for his alleged involvement in a high-profile conspiracy to murder the former prime minister.
Two local officers travelled to Australia to facilitate the handover of Talalelei Pauga from the Australian authorities and accompanied him to Samoa. He was remanded into custody.
As previously documented, Talalelei Pauga, a dual Australian-Samoan citizen, believes the charges are politically motivated due to his fierce criticisms of the country’s longest-serving leader Tuila’epa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi, who is now Samoa’s opposition leader.
According to Amnesty International, Pauga is a vocal critic of the Samoan government’s policies. In late 2018, when the then Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi visited Brisbane in Australia, Pauga verbally protested political corruption committed by the foreign leader and presented him with a pig’s head. He was then accused of conspiring to assassinate the former Samoan Prime Minister. The organisation believes these charges are politically motivated and that Pauga will not receive a fair trial in Samoa.
In 2019, Pauga and his co-accused Lemai Sione and Malele Paulo were all charged with conspiracy to murder. The accused had all been vocal opponents of the Samoan government and Pauga was arrested and detained in August 2020 in Australia.