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Australian cleared of assault in Sierra Leone

Published Oct 13, 2005

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Freetown - An appeal court in Sierra Leone has acquitted an Australian war crimes investigator convicted earlier this year of indecently assaulting a teenage girl in the West African country.

Peter Halloran, who was on secondment to the United Nations-backed special court investigating human rights violations during Sierra Leone's civil war, had been sentenced to 18 months in jail in February.

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Halloran, who denied the charges, was released on bail in March on condition he check in with police in Freetown every day.

In a decision late on Wednesday, two of the three judges on the appeal court panel voted to acquit him.

"I am very pleased that at long last the appeal court has taken the decision to free me," Halloran told journalists outside the court.

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In January, Halloran was cleared of raping the 14-year-old girl in the same case.

Sierra Leone's special court was set up to bring to justice those most responsible for a 10-year war which shocked the world with images of drugged-up young gunmen and mutilated victims.

The allegations against Halloran, an Australian police officer, came from another Australian investigator who shared a house with him in Freetown.

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The special court suspended Halloran last June after it became aware of the allegations against him but an internal inquiry found insufficient evidence to support them.

Halloran told journalists he would now approach UN court officials regarding his position.

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