A bench warrant was issued for the arrest of a University of Hawaii professor on Wednesday — even though he was in the courtroom at the time.
The unusual exchange took place in a Wailuku courtroom when Samuel Kaleikoa Kaeo spoke in the Hawaiian language instead of English when he addressed the judge.
Judge Blaine Kobayshi said he couldn’t understand Kaeo and issued a warrant for his arrest, saying “the court is unable to get a definitive determination for the record that the defendant seated in court is Mr. Samuel Kaeo,” according to Hawaii News Now.
Kaeo said he appeared before the same judge repeatedly and complained that “it was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian that he didn’t like.”
“I showed up,” Kaeo told reporters, according to Hawaii News Now. “I dealt with this judge maybe 15 times before. So, obviously, it had nothing to do with they couldn’t recognize me. You see what the issue was? It wasn’t about me. It was about the fact that I was speaking Hawaiian. But these small obstacles are the kinds of things we overcome.”
The associate professor of Hawaiian Studies at the University of Hawaii Maui College was facing misdemeanor charges of disorderly conduct and obstructing a sidewalk. The charges are connected to a protest of the construction of a new telescope on top of a volcano in Maui, according to Hawaii News Now.
A request had been made for an interpreter but prosecutors objected, saying it was an unnecessary expense.
“There is no legal requirement to provide Hawaiian language interpreters to court participants who speak English but prefer to speak in Hawaiian,” the state judiciary said in a statement to Hawaii News Now. “In those cases, judges have the discretion to grant, or deny, a request for an interpreter.”
Kaeo told KHON2 outside the courthouse that “we have to put this into context.”
“I will continue to demand through my words that I’ll be recognized as a human being,” he told the station. “That we as Hawaiians have a right for the human right to speak our language.”
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