Ex-Solomon Islands Attorney General Deported to Australia on Child Sex Charges

The Solomon Islands government deported its former attorney general Thursday to Australia where he is wanted on child sex charges.

Julian Moti, an Australian national who was fired earlier this week from his post, was put on a Solomon Airlines flight to the eastern Australian city of Brisbane by Solomons' officials and police.

Moti, 42, was arrested at the airport when he arrived from Honiara and was due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court Friday charged with raping a 13-year-old girl. If convicted he faces a maximum penalty of 17 years imprisonment, an Australian Federal Police statement said.

The extradition came a week after former Education Minister Derek Sikua was elected prime minister. Sikua immediately moved to repair ties with regional powers that became strained under his ousted predecessor.

Moti is accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in Vanuatu in 1997 — a crime he was acquitted of by a jury in the South Pacific nation.

Under Australia's anti-pedophile laws, its citizens can be tried for crimes committed overseas. Australian law does not recognize the Vanuatu court's decision on the Moti sex charges, and has demanded that he be sent to Australia to face justice.

Moti was fired as attorney general after the Solomons' High Court last week ruled that he held no special legal status as attorney general and was therefore not immune from extradition.

Moti was appointed to the post by his close friend, recently ousted premier Manasseh Sogavare, in 2006.

The new Solomons government of Sikua pledged to send Moti back to Australia as part of its policy of improving relations with Canberra after a series of bitter rows between the two nations during Sogavare's 20-month rule.