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Judicial CP - February 2010

Corpun file 22068, South Africa, 18 February 2010

Tongan teens appeal flogging

Nuku'Alofa - Two Tongan teenagers who escaped from prison and stole food and other goods while on the run have appealed a court ruling ordering them to be whipped, with supporters calling the punishment inhumane and a form of torture.

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Supreme Court judge Robert Shuster sentenced each boy to 13 years in prison and six lashes from a "cat-o-nine-tails" whip at a hearing last November that has only just come to light.

The ruling has prompted protests from Tonga's Law Society and others who say it is a brutal and archaic form of punishment that has not been used in decades.

Law Society president Laki Niu said flogging is barbaric, even if it is a deterrent.

"I think it is inhumane. I think it is a form of torture," he told New Zealand's TVOne News on Wednesday.

'Good punishment'

Niu described the cat-o-nine-tails as a knotted whip with nine strands that are soaked in water overnight. The prisoner is then held down by guards and whipped across the buttocks with great force, he said.

Niu said that the punishment is so intense that it is often hard for the prisoner to remain conscious.

Former police officer Kei Iongi, who whipped two men decades ago, admits they suffered greatly. A doctor halted one whipping, but Iongi believes it is an effective punishment.

"I think it's good punishment for the Tongan men," Iongi told TVOne.

Under Tongan law, the South Pacific nation's Cabinet has to approve a whipping sentence, which would then be carried out by police.

Prime Minister Feleti Sevele said he would not discuss the case because it was still before the court.

Both boys had long records of petty criminal offenses before their prison breakout. - AP

blob Follow-up: 14 July 2010 - Tonga overturns flogging sentence

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