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New Charge in Samoa Murder Case

August 13, 1999

APIA, Samoa (AP) _ A former Samoan government minister already accused of killing his replacement also has been charged with conspiracy to assassinate the prime minister.

The new charge against Toi Aukuso, 67, accuses him of conspiracy to murder Prime Minister Tuilaeapa Sailele. It was brought at the start of his trial Thursday.

Aukuso’s lawyer quit, however, and the case was adjourned until Monday without Aukuso entering a plea on three charges against him.

He was earlier charged with murder and incitement to murder in the July 16 slaying of Works Minister Luagalau Levaulu Kamu, who was shot during a political ceremony in this tiny South Pacific state previously known as Western Samoa.

The prime minister, meanwhile, said he now believed he had also been the target of an assassin, despite earlier dismissing Kamu’s killing as ``probably the work of a nut.″

``The offenders have been caught,″ Sailele said. ``I think this is a good lesson to other people who may be contemplating doing the same thing.″

A death sentence was imposed last Friday on Eletise Leafa Vitale, 34, who pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to murdering Kamu, 44.

Aukuso’s lawyer, Toleafoa Toailoa Solomona, told judge Andrew Wilson that his client had hired a new attorney and that police had not advised the defense of the fresh charge.

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