Updated: 06/06/2014 11:35 | By Agence France-Presse

Two Tongan police convicted over N. Zealand cop's death

Two Tongan police officers were convicted of manslaughter Friday over the death of a New Zealand policeman who was fatally beaten after being taken into custody while visiting the Pacific nation.


Two Tongan police convicted over N. Zealand cop's death

Photo taken on March 28, 2012 shows the Tongan capital of Nuku'alofa, where two Tongan police officers were convicted of manslaughter Friday over the death of a New Zealand policeman - by Torsten Blackwood

A judge found the officers, Kelepi Hala'ufia and Salesi Maile, attacked Kali Fungavaka in the police lock-up in Nuku'alofa in August 2012 after he was arrested for "minor drunkenness" while in Tonga for a funeral.

The 38-year-old father-of-five, who won a police bravery award in New Zealand in 2006, suffered massive head injuries and died in hospital a week later.

After a judge-only trial that lasted four weeks, Justice Charles Cato said he was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Hala'ufia and Maile were guilty of manslaughter.

A third Tongan police officer, Fatai Faletau, was found guilty of assault but acquitted on charges of manslaughter and grievous bodily harm, while another two policemen were acquitted on all charges.

Cato said that Hala'ufia, an inspector at the time, fractured Fungavaka's skull by striking him with a torch then strangled him, breaking a bone in his throat.

He found Maile, a constable who helped arrest Fungavaka, stomped on the prisoner's head, causing serious head and brain trauma.

Hala'ufia, Maile and Faletau were remanded in custody to be sentenced on July 1.

Fungavaka's mother, wife and members of his extended family were in court for the verdict.

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