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Solomons court hears testimony of mudered priest's brother

The brother of a Solomon Islands priest and Cabinet minister Fr Augustine Geve, allegedly murdered by militant leader Harold Keke, yesterday told how his body was returned to his village with gaping bullet wounds.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that schoolteacher Francis Laise told the High Court in Honiara that one wound on Fr Augustine Geve's body was as large as a fist and it appeared a 12-round magazine from a semi-automatic weapon had been emptied into his brother's side.

Keke, 34, and his associates Ronnie Cawa, 24, and Francis Lela, 22, have pleaded not guilty to murdering the Minister of Youth, Women and Sports on August 20, 2002 in his south Guadalcanal constituency.

Their trial started on Monday with Solomons Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza listed as one of 39 witnesses to give evidence.

Laise told the court that at a meeting in the Weather Coast village of Raeavu the day before his brother's death, Keke ordered Geve to write a letter to Kemakeza resigning as a member of parliament.

He said Keke told the meeting he had paid Geve's fee to stand for parliament but as he had done nothing for his constituency he must resign.

Laise, who taught Keke in primary school, said Keke later told him he would take Geve away saying: I will look after him not as if he was my uncle but as my father, I will look after him, whether poor or rich, until the day he dies.

Geve was then taken away in an outboard-powered canoe, said Laise, speaking in pidgin English through an interpreter.

He said the next day his brother's body was returned to Raeavu by canoe then taken to the verandah of Laise's house where his daughter-in-law washed the many gunshot wounds.

Keke, wearing a white shirt and tie and short dreadlocks, sat quietly through the hearing and smiled when Ngaovaka pointed at him to identify him.

Solomon MP had gaping wounds: court (Sydney Morning Herald/AAO 2/2/05)

The Catholic Church in the Solomon Islands
Big trouble in little paradise called Solomons (Catholic Leader 6/7/03)
Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade)

Charges laid for Solomons priest's murder (CathNews 31/1/05)
Solomons warlord finally charged for priest's murder (CathNews 12/9/03)
Solomons Archbishop urges warlord to surrender (CathNews 8/7/03)
Priest-parliament member assassinated in Solomon Islands (CathNews 26/8/02)
Solomons murder trial awaits collusion claim (Sydney Morning Herald 2/2/05)
Dispute in Solomons murder trial (The Age 2/2/05)
Solomons warlord tried for murder (Big News Network 31/1/05)
Quarterly newsletter of the Catholic Church of Solomon Islands launches Survey to improve communications service (Fides 30/1/05)
Trial told of murder on beach ( 1/2/05)
Priest's death walk in Solomons recalled (Sydney Morning Herald 1/2/05)
Minister 'executed on remote beach' (The Australian 1/2/05)

3 Feb 2005