Man arrested, charged for assassination threat against FSM President Panuelo

FSM President David Panuelo (file photo)

A man has been arrested in connection with a Facebook post threatening to assassinate the President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), His Excellency David W. Panuelo.

Criminal charges were filed against the Defendant under Title 11 of the FSM Code having to do with making threats of bodily harm, among others, in retaliation of a decision made in connection with the mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for all eligible FSM citizens residing in the FSM.

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President Panuelo issued a decree on August 10th, 2021, describing the enforcement mechanisms behind the Nation-wide vaccination mandate in a manner that would implement Congressional Resolution No. 22-33 passed by the 22nd FSM Congress on July 28th, 2021.

The Defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty in Court. Prior to the arrest, the FSM National Police Investigators were able to link the Defendant to the Facebook post made online making the threat of assassination against President Panuelo. The Investigators, in joint cooperation with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (US FBI) et al., were able to reach out and secure critical pieces of information from Facebook, Google, and other relevant entities, regarding this matter.

Over the course of their duties, the National Prosecutors and Police Investigators asked the FSM Supreme Court for the issuance of a search warrant that would give authority under the law, and the rules of the Court, to search the residence, vehicle, and place of employment of the Defendant in connection with the illegal Facebook post. The Police Investigators were able to serve and execute the search warrant peacefully and safely.

After staying in jail during the weekend, the Defendant was ordered released on strict conditions pending Court trial and further proceeding in this case. The specific charges against the Defendant, who is presumed innocent until proven guilty, and whose charges are a matter of public record upon their filing at the FSM Supreme Court, are with regards to Section 517 of Title 11 of the FSM Code (threats and other improper influence in official and political matters), Section 518 of Title 11 of the FSM Code (retaliation for past official action), Section 603 of Title 11 of the FSM Code (criminal mischief), Section 609 of Title 11 of the FSM Code (assault), and Section 701 of Title 11 of the FSM Code (deprivation of rights).

Not every decision the Government makes, such as the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, will be popular. It is healthy, proper, and appropriate for citizens to engage in spirited debate (i.e. the exchange of views) and dialectic (i.e. the art of investigating or discussing the truth of opinions) on topics of public interest. The FSM National Government encourages the public to freely express differing views on matters of public importance, to include the use of colorful and expressive language when one holds a particularly passionate view, as the Freedom of Expression is sacrosanct.

Making threats of bodily harm against any person, however, to include any public official for that matter, is prohibited and punishable as a felony by law. The highest penalty applicable for Threats and other Improper Influence in Official and Political Matters is up to 10 years.

The Panuelo-George administration promotes transparency and accountability in public service, but the law cannot, will not, and does not tolerate threats of physical harm to citizens and residents, including those directed against the Head of State and Head of Government.

(FSMIS Release)