SYDNEY (AFP) – An attempt by the Kiribati government to deport an Australian judge – the husband of the Pacific nation’s opposition leader – was quashed by an appeal court on Friday (Aug 26).

Mr David Lambourne, a high court judge in Kiribati, was detained this month by the government after it failed to forcibly deport him.

His politician wife, Mrs Tessie Lambourne, has accused Kiribati’s government of moving closer to China, especially after it pulled the nation out of the top Pacific Islands diplomatic forum.

An appeal court on Friday quashed the deportation orders against Mr Lambourne, describing the government’s claims of him being a security threat as “far-fetched”.

It ordered his release on bail conditions and the return of his Australian passport, effectively ending the deportation attempt as long as he remains a judge.

Kiribati’s government and judiciary have been tussling over Mr Lambourne for more than a year.

He told Australian national broadcaster ABC this month that he felt the attempts to deport him were targeted at his wife, the leader of the opposition.

“She is clearly a thorn in their side and, as far as I can tell, all attempts to remove me are really an underhand means of trying to attack her,” Mr Lambourne said.

Throughout the Pacific, it is common for retired judges from Australia or New Zealand to take up senior roles in an island nation’s judiciary.