IN COURT: Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang (left) leaves Mackay Court House yesterday with co-accused Patrick John Sabitino. The pair faced court charged with taking a protected animal.
IN COURT: Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang (left) leaves Mackay Court House yesterday with co-accused Patrick John Sabitino. The pair faced court charged with taking a protected animal. Ashley Pillhofer

Turtle taking saga: Lawyer steps back from case

COMPLEX questions about the rights of traditional owners and indigenous Australians, and how these interact with laws that enforce the protection of animals are at the centre of a court case in Mackay.

Accused of illegally taking a protected green turtle, two Indigenous men appeared in Mackay Magistrates Court alongside each other on Tuesday.

Jaffa Godfrey Ahwang and Patrick John Sabatino are both charged under the Nature Conservation Act for allegedly taking a protected animal, chelonia mydus (green turtle), without authorisation from Murray Creek Bay on April 16, 2017.

Yesterday, both pleaded not guilty to the alleged offence.

Acting on behalf of the accused, defence solicitor Chris Colwill, of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island Legal Service, told the court he and the organisation would "discontinue representation” of both men.

At a previous mention, Mr Colwill said there had been "difficulty” in ascertaining where in the legislation it permitted "traditional owners to fish in the green zone”.

As well as what legislation outlines what traditional owners can or can't do and "what permission a traditional owner can give to a non-traditional owner”.

Magistrate Ron Muirhead adjourned the case to allow the men to find new legal representation.

The case will return to court for mention on April 30.