COALITION TO TAKE SPEIGHT AND COMPANY TO COURT IF FREED

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By Leone Cabenatabua

SUVA, Fiji Islands (August 27, 2000 – Fiji Sun/Pasifik Nius/Niuswire)---Fiji’s deposed elected People’s Coalition government will take rebel leader George Speight and his group to court if they walk away free men over the treason charges, reports the Fiji Sun.

This was disclosed yesterday by ousted Deputy Prime Minister Dr. Tupeni Baba who said that his government would first have to await a court ruling on the legality of the dismissal.

"We would challenge the legality of the amnesty if George Speight and his group march out of court free men under the Muanikau Accord's Immunity Decree," said Dr. Baba.

The People’s Coalition has hired the services of renowned civil rights advocate Geoffrey Robertson, QC, dubbed Britain’s "Super Silk" because of his internationally reputed prowess in court.

Dr. Baba added that if the court ruled in favor of the illegal overthrow of his government, it would render all ensuing acts, which included the transfer of power and promulgation of decrees, also illegal.

And it could mean that those involved in the overthrow could be liable for treason.

Dr. Baba said that they first have to consider the regularity of the Immunity Decree (and a precedent) set in Trinidad and Tobago in 1992 where a court overturned a similar decree.

"We would challenge the legality of the amnesty in court because that was done under duress," he said.

On Saturday, the Fiji Sun reported that Speight and 16 rebels charged with treason and conspiracy to treason could walk free if the defense counsel could prove in court that the rebels were "true to the Immunity Decree."

The decree was at the center of legal argument in the Suva Magistrates' Court when Speight and his fellow accused appeared before Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo.

Temo asked both the defense and prosecution counsel to prepare their arguments about the decree because the case could not afford to "drag on" as much of the taxpayers' money was spent in using Nukulau Island as the prison camp for the accused.

The chief magistrate will issue a ruling on September 4.

Title -- 2929 FIJI: Coalition threatens to take Speight to court Date -- 27 August 2000 Byline -- Leone Cabenatabua Origin -- Pasifik Nius Source -- Fiji Sun, 27/8/00 Copyright – FS Status -- Unabridged

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