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Saturday 23 September 2017

Island set for one of the biggest trials in its history

Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

THE trial of the men accused of murdering Michaela McAreavey is scheduled to begin in the Supreme Court of Mauritius at 10am local time tomorrow.

The colonial-era courthouse in Port Louis is expected to be packed for what will be one of the biggest murder trials in the small Indian Ocean island's history.

Michaela's husband John McAreavey will watch as the men charged with killing his wife, Avinash Treebhowon and Sandip Moneea, face Judge Prithviraj Fekna in hearings that are set to last more than two weeks.

Both of the men and their families have claimed that they are innocent.

Among the first items on the agenda will be the selection of a nine-person jury.

The judge will also reportedly consider an application by one of the accused, Mr Moneea, to be given a separate trial.

His lawyer, Rama Valayden, is expected to argue that a confession made by Mr Treebhowon, in which he claimed Mr Moneea strangled Michaela, prejudices the case against his client.

Immunity

Pending the result of this application, the defendants will be asked to enter a guilty or not guilty plea to the murder charges.

After the jury selection the defending and prosecuting barristers are given an opportunity to make their opening speeches

As many as 36 witnesses are expected to testify. Just 30 of them have been named including "star witness" Raj Theekoy, a hotel cleaner who is to describe how he heard a woman "shouting in pain" moments before Michaela's body was discovered.

Originally charged in connection to the murder, he has been granted immunity in exchange for his testimony.

Other witnesses include Mr McAreavey who found his wife's body, Legends Hotel manager Brice Lunot and numerous police officers.

All of the witnesses may be cross-examined by defence lawyers before both sides can give their closing arguments

If the jury returns a guilty verdict, counsels for the prosecution and defence make submissions before the judge makes a decision on a sentence.

The death penalty has been abolished in Mauritius but the accused men still face up to 60 years in prison if they are found guilty.

Irish Independent

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