The court found Michael Apereo not guilty to three counts of murder on Thursday because the State did not prove the element of identification to show he actually committed the offense.
State also did not prove beyond reasonable doubt that he was at Walia check point on Oct 30, 2012.
Apereo had an alibi that he was at home in Mt Hagen with his family at the time of the attack.
Despite allegations that he was the main perpetrator in the tribal attack at the Walia Check point over land issues, the court ruled that his alibi defense was stronger.
The court also acquitted him because his other two co-accuseds were earlier found not guilty of the offense in the Mt Hagen National Court.
Justice Panuel Mogish in his ruling on verdict on Thursday said two of the state witnesses also gave evidence in the trials conducted in Mt Hagen which found his two other co-accuseds not guilty.
He accepted Apereo’s alibi because he was of the view that his health status shows difficulty in his mobility to lead such an attack.
Apereo was diagnosed with gout in 1998 and despite not being able to present medical reports of his condition in court from 1998 to 2012, the judge accepted his defence that he is a villager and people in the village don’t pay attention to such documents.
He said Apereo was identified as the principal offender simply because he was the leader of the tribe.
The judge said lumps on his body from gout showed that the disease did not grow overnight.
He acquitted Apereo and ordered a bail refund of K2000 to him before dismissing him of the charges.
The state had alleged that the principal offender wilfully murdered three men who were employed as security guards and from an enemy tribe at the check point.
The Walia check point was set up to check vehicles and passengers travelling between the two provinces for items like illegal alcohol and firearms.
State further alleged that the attack was planned by Apereo following a disagreement between the tribes over the security contract.
Armed with factory made pistols and bush knives, Apereo allegedly led a group of men in a coaster bus and a Toyota Land cruiser to the check point between 5pm and 6pm. Three men were killed that day in the attack.