Papua New Guinea lawmaker pleads not guilty in Sydney court to assaulting woman

SYDNEY — Papua New Guinea’s sidelined Petroleum Minister Jimmy Maladina pleaded not guilty in a Sydney court Thursday to a charge of assaulting a woman during a domestic dispute.

His lawyer Margaret Cunneen entered the plea on his behalf during his brief appearance in Waverley Local Court. Neither Maladine nor Cuneen made a statement to media waiting outside court.

Police allege he assaulted a 31-year-old woman Saturday at an address in nearby Bondi in Sydney’s expensive eastern suburbs and she suffered facial injuries. A conviction on the charge of assault resulting in bodily harm could carry a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Maladina, 58, remains free on bail with restrictions on contact with the woman but there are no bail conditions that would prevent him from leaving Australia. Maladina will appear in court next on July 17 when a magistrate will set a hearing date.

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister James Marape announced on Wednesday that Energy Minister Thomas Opa had taken over the petroleum portfolio since Maladina had stepped down during the court process. He remains a government lawmaker.

Foreign government ministers can claim immunity from criminal prosecution in Australia if they are visiting on business. But there is no immunity for private visits.

The Associated Press asked the Papua New Guinea High Commission in Australia on Tuesday whether Maladina was visiting on official business but received no reply.

Papua New Guinea is Australia’s nearest neighbor and an Australian colony until independence in 1975.


Associated Press writers Charlotte Graham-McLay in Wellington, New Zealand, and Rod McGuirk in Melbourne, Australia, contributed to this report.

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