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By Red Harrison in Sydney

SYDNEY, Australia (January 5, 2000 – BBC News)---The High Court of Fiji has rejected an attempt to suspend proceedings for treason against George Speight and nine others accused of overthrowing the government.

The director of public prosecutions had asked for hearings to be suspended indefinitely, claiming that Fiji's chief magistrate, Salesi Temo, was biased in favor of Mr. Speight.

George Speight and his co-conspirators were due to appear before the chief magistrate in a committal hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to take them to trial for treason.

Mr. Speight and his fellow accused led a coup against Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry on May 19, 2000, and held him and members of his government hostage for 56 days.

Intimidation fears

The legal dispute centers on 114 witnesses who the prosecution says it intends to call to support charges of treason.

The chief magistrate wants the identity and other details of every witness to be disclosed before the hearing begins.

This, the prosecution says, would be an abuse of the court process and lead to witnesses being intimidated.

The High Court Judge, Nazhat Shameem, disagreed.

No evidence of bias

There was no abuse of procedure, she said, and no evidence that the magistrate was biased.

The prosecution has lodged a separate High Court appeal against the order that witnesses must be named in advance.

Justice Shameem will hear this next week.

Meanwhile Mr. Speight and his alleged co-conspirators remain in an offshore island prison.

For additional reports from the BBC, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/BBC News: Asia-Pacific.



SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 5, 2000 – Radio Australia)---Fiji's High Court has extended a temporary order suspending the committal hearing of treason charges against George Speight.

State lawyers yesterday asked the High Court to disqualify Magistrate Salesi Temo, saying he was biased in favor of the accused.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports that Justice Nazhat Shameem rejected the application, saying it was not properly made.

"The Prosecution wants the High Court to also quash Temo's decision ordering the disclosure of the identities of the 114 state witnesses in the treason trial.

"The office contends that Temo's recent rulings on the Speight matter were judicially wrong.

"However, Justice Shameem has advised the DPP's office to re-file its application for a stay and against the Chief Magistrate's conduct on the Speight case immediately.

"For Radio Australia News, I'm Ofa Kaukimoce."

For additional reports from Radio Australia, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Radio Australia.

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