Retired Officer Charged in Papua New Guinea Mutiny

Posted January 29th, 2012 at 4:50 am (UTC-5)
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A retired army officer who tried to tried to overthrow the Papua New Guinea government last week appeared in court on Sunday and was charged with mutiny.

Police say retired colonel Yaura Sasa was arrested late Saturday. Sasa and a group of around 30 armed rebel soldiers placed the military's top commander under house arrest in a bloodless, pre-dawn mutiny early Thursday. He threatened unspecified military action unless Prime Minister Peter O'Neill complied with a Supreme Court order to re-instate ousted Prime Minister Michael Somare.

But the crisis ended later in the day after police arrested at least 15 of the mutinous soldiers and freed the army commander who had been under house arrest.

The attempted mutiny was the latest incident in an ongoing political stalemate that has rocked the South Pacific island nation since December, when the Supreme Court ruled that Mr. Somare had been illegally replaced while seeking medical attention out of the country.

Governor General Michael Ogio initially supported the ruling and re-instated Mr. Somare as prime minister, leaving two alternate governments fighting for power. But he backed down days later.

Mr. O'Neill eventually resumed his post and appeared to have the backing of the majority of the government. But Mr. Somare has refused to concede defeat, insisting that he is still the country's legitimate leader.

Some observers say that early elections may be the best way to solve the political standoff. Elections are currently scheduled for June.