Kali Fungavaka Murder Case Heard In Tonga Court
NUKUALOFA, Tonga (Matangi Tonga, Feb. 25, 2013) – In Tonga, the Crown alleges that New Zealand police officer Kali Fungavaka was beaten-up from the time he was arrested outside a Nuku'alofa bar and while he was led on foot to the Central Police Station, where the prosecution described the horrific beatings allegedly continued by the six men accused of manslaughter.
The Preliminary Inquiry into the death of the victim began this afternoon at the Nuku'alofa Magistrate's Court with the Crown Prosecutor presenting his case and calling four of 32 witnesses to give evidence.
The Crown alleged that Kali Fungavaka was beaten up several times, including being hit hard on the head and stabbed in the stomach with a torch, strangled, and punched on the face at different times by the six accused from the time he was arrested and led on foot to the Nuku'alofa Central Police Station, as well as several beatings inside the station and cells.
All of the accused, namely Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia, four police constables Manu Tu'ivai, Salesi Maile, Fatai Faletau, and Tevita Vakalahi, and a civilian Semisi Kalisitiane Manu, are similarly charged with manslaughter with an alternative charge of causing grievous bodily harm.
Crown Prosecutor Sione Sisifa told the court the Crown alleged the five accused police officers were in a joint enterprise to commit the unlawful act of committing manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm on Kali. Semisi Kalisitiane Manu, who is similarly charged, allegedly committed the unlawful act inside the prison cell, at the Nuku'alofa Central Police station.
The prosecutor told the court that the victim, Kali Fungavaka, came to Tonga from New Zealand on August 14, 2012 to attend his grandfather's funeral at Fua'amotu.
On the evening of August 17 he came to Nuku'alofa and was drinking alcohol with others at the bars in the Nuku'alofa CBD. Just after midnight on that night Kali came out of Timeout Bar with a relative Tavake Paea. While they were standing outside the bar the police arrested them for allegedly being drunk in a public place.
He said the two arresting officers were the accused Salesi Maile and Fatai Faletau.
The police officers could not get Kali into the police vehicle so they led him on foot to the Central Police Station. When they got to Friends Café, which is located opposite the bar, the accused Faletau allegedly hit the victim on the head with a torch. The victim fell down and the two accused officers raised him up on his feet and continued leading him to the station.
The Crown alleged that when they reached the police station and were inside the complaint area, the accused Inspector Kelepi Hala'ufia hit the victim on the head with his torch, before he was put into a watch-house room inside the station.
The inspector is alleged to have strangled the victim on the neck inside the same room, and that all five accused officers beat up the victim on different parts of his body before he was dragged by Maile and Faletau and was put into cell number 7.
Before they even got to the first cell, Maile is alleged to have stood on the victim's face with his boots. When the victim was put into cell number 7, the accused civilian Semisi Manu who was already detained, punched Kali on the face inside the cell, alleged the Crown.
The victim fell and first hit the back of his head on the cement wall before falling and hitting his head again on the cement floor inside the cell, where he lay for some time.
The victim was not taken to Vaiola Hospital until around 6:00am on August 18, 2012. He died on August 23 and his body was returned to New Zealand on August 25, and examined by a doctor.
The doctor in New Zealand had concluded that the various beatings to different parts of the victim's body starting from his head to other parts had all contributed to his death.
The Crown alleged that the five police officers were in a joint enterprise to commit the unlawful act of manslaughter and causing grievous bodily harm to the victim. Semisi Manu allegedly committed an unlawful beating inside the prison cell.
One of the four witnesses called this afternoon, Andre Manu who is the father of accused Manu, said he was an eye-witness to the beating inside the police station.
He said he arrived at the station around quarter to midnight on the night of August 17, to check on his son Semisi Manu, who was being detained in custody. He was told by police they would not release his son until 3:00am so he stayed and waited.
Andre said as he was standing outside the main charge office at the station he saw the two arresting officers, whom he identified in court as Maile and Faletau, escorting the victim on foot to the station, while holding both his hands to his back.
He said that as they led Kali into the charge office he overheard the victim asking why were they arresting him and what did he do. The witness said he then came and stood from outside the main counter at the station as the two officers tried to take victim inside.
A police van came outside and another man, whom he learned was the victim's relative Tavake Paea, was led in by another two police officers, with Inspector Hala'ufia leading the way.
They came in and went into the office, while Faletau and Maile were still trying to take Kali inside from around the area where he was standing from outside the counter.
"Hala'ufia came out and stood with me from outside the counter and told the two officers to hurry up and take him inside. I then saw Hala'ufia went with his torch and hit Kali on the top of his head," he said. This happened while Faletau and Maile were still holding him.
Andre said that Inspector Hala'ufia then stabbed the victim on the stomach with the torch before they took him inside. "It was a big bang when the torch hit his head. I stood there for about 15 to 20 minutes and I could hear the sound of them beating him, and I saw them (the accused officers) kneeling down to beat him," he said.
The three other witnesses who were called this afternoon included Melesungu Halaholo who said she saw Kali being escorted on foot by the two officers, as she was sitting inside a vehicle parked in front of Friends Cafe.
She said she only recognized Faletau, but she did not know the other police officer.
Meanwhile, Ashley Fua who was the acting officer in charge at the Central Police Station on the night of August 17 was standing outside the station talking. He told the court he witnessed Kali being escorted down the road to the station by the two officers on foot.
He claimed that Kali swore in English to the police and had said in Tongan to let him go so they could fight, while he was escorted on foot by the two officers, who had each held his hands to the back. He told the court when he went into the station to go to his office later he did not see Kali or anything else.
The Crown will continue to call their witnesses tomorrow at the lower court.
Meanwhile, the matter of counsel for the four accused including Salesi Maile, Fatai Faletau, Manu Tu'ivai and Semisi Manu was resolved. They were being represented by the same counsel Mele Kioa, the court was told.
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