Policeman thought Satapuala youth had guns in their pockets

Prosecutor Leinafo Taimalelagi brief witnesses after the morning session in court

Prosecutor Leinafo Taimalelagi brief witnesses after the morning session in court

BY Lagi Keresoma

APIA: WEDNESDAY 1 MAY 2013: Amidst swearing and other abusive words hurled at them, a Policeman saw youths of Satapuala with hands in their pockets and feared they were armed.

“I thought they had guns in their pockets, but there were not any,” said Constable Setu Tuilaepa in evidence in the District Court today.

Eighteen Satapuala residents are on trial charged with a variety of offences related to confrontation with Police over a road block that stopped traffic to and from Faleolo International Airport August last year.

Amongst airline passengers blocked was Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sa’ilele Malielegaoi who avoided the road block and took the long way home.

Constable Tuilaepa testified he was one of the armed officers on the front line that day.

They stood on the road in front of the road block facing angry villagers ahead and on the roadside.

As well as the youths with their hands in their pockets, he heard abuse hurled at them from the sides of the road, Constable Tuilaepa said.

There was “pushing and shoving” but they were able to do their work, he said.

“The village helped the Police.”

“How did they help?” asked defense counsel Papali’i Li’o Masepa’u.

Papali’i is lawyer for 10 of the defendants in what has been referred to as the Satapula case.

“They helped removed the stone wall and they asked for negotiations,” said Constable Tuilaepa.

Prosecution witnesses yesterday said the road block consisted of three fences of stone.

Constable Tuilaepa said there were two fences, evidence which Sergeant Misipele Fiatau and Constable Sefulu Sefulu supported.

People were calling out to them to retreat, but they responded by pushing on, he said.

One of the defendants, Vaili Mimita, called out to negotiate, Sergeant Fiatau said.

He said despite all the commotion, Vaili, and defendants Muagututia Leao Akeripa and Tomasi, whom he named as the few prominent people he saw, were “just walking from side to side” and did not interfere with the Police’s work.

After they removed the road block Police marched towards Faleolo under the protection of their shields.

So far, 12 out of 114 police witnesses had taken the stand.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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