Second PNG judge charged with sedition

Papua New Guinea police Monday charged a second top judge with sedition, following a supreme court ruling that Prime Minister Peter O'Neill's rise to power was unlawful.

Supreme Court Justice Nicholas Kirriwom was one of three judges who last week reaffirmed O'Neill's election by lawmakers last August was illegal and that former leader Michael Somare, who was recuperating from major illness at the time, should be reinstated.

Another of the judges, Chief Justice Salamo Injia, was charged with sedition on Thursday.

Police confirmed in a statement that Kirriwom was charged under Section 54 of the Criminal Code and released on bail.

"He was very cooperative and the record of interview lasted less than an hour," said Assistant Commissioner of Police Thomas Eluh.

PNG was thrown into political crisis in December when the Supreme Court first ruled O'Neill's election was invalid. However, O'Neill remains in effective control, and has the support of the majority of lawmakers.

The court's second ruling on the matter delivered last week prompted O'Neill to accuse the judiciary of bias.

Both Somare and O'Neill claim they are the rightful leader of the poor Pacific nation of more than six million people, which is on the cusp of a resources boom that analysts say could double the country's income.

The Commonwealth bloc of nations has called on Papua New Guinea to respect the rule of law and the judiciary's independence, while Australia has warned that PNG is risking its international image.

Papua New Guinea goes to the polls on June 23 for elections in which O'Neill will attempt to cement his hold on power.

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