FIJI COUP LEADER SPEIGHT AND SUPPORTERS APPEAR IN SUVA COURT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 30, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Magistrates Court in the Fiji capital, Suva, has heard that Fiji's coup plotters were traitors who planned to blow up banks, sink ships and seize the country's president.

The accusations were made during a hearing to determine if coup leader George Speight and 12 of his supporters should face trial for treason.

The court heard that the coup plotters had planned to dynamite Parliament and the Westpac and ANZ banks in central Suva, as well as issue petrol bombs to Fijian youths to attack shops and to dockers to sink ships.

But, the preliminary inquiry before Chief Magistrate Sailesi Temo came to a standstill after Mr. Speight sacked his lawyer.

The case was adjourned for a week to allow Mr. Speight to find new representation.

Mr. Speight and the 12 others face a single charge of treason and other acts related to events between May 1st and July 31st last year when the government of now deposed Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was held hostage for 56 days.

 

FIJI'S COUP LEADER SACKS LAWYER

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 30, 2001 – Radio Australia)---Fiji coup leader, George Speight sacked his lawyer on the opening day of a legal hearing in the capital, Suva, to determine whether he will stand trial for treason.

Lawyer Rabo Matebalavu has told the court that it was in his best interest that Mr. Speight obtains separate legal representation.

Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports.

"The lawyer told the court that he does not want to delay the court proceedings. However, he said it is important that his client get legal representation.

"The essence of Mr. Matebalavu's application was that he represent the remaining 12 accomplices but not Speight.

"Chief Magistrate Selesi Temo questioned Mr. Matebalavu and whether he is applying to withdraw from Speight's defense, but Mr. Matebalavu replied, ‘No."

"He explained that he will continue representing Speight until he finds a new lawyer.

"The preliminary inquiry has been adjourned until next Tuesday. However, Mr. Temo warned that if Speight fails to find a lawyer by this Thursday, Mr. Matebalavu will have to give ‘‘strong grounds’’ as to why he wants to withdraw.

"The Chief Magistrate says Mr. Matebalavu has been representing Speight since day one and he should continue representing him.

"The Chief Magistrate made it clear that Speight needs legal representation.

"The preliminary inquiry will decide whether there is enough evidence for a High Court trial.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia, Suva."

 

REFORM GROUP GIVES UP BATTLE AGAINST FIJI HIGH COURT JUDGES

SUVA, Fiji Islands (May 31, 2001 – Radio Australia)---The Citizens Constitutional Forum in Fiji has ended its hard line stand against the country's High Court judges.

CCF lawyer Sir Vijay Singh has written to the court saying there will be no further attempt to disqualify certain judges from hearing its applications.

As Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports, the forum had earlier failed in its bid to have Justice Daniel Fatiaki disqualified from hearing its case against President Ratu Josefa Iloilo.

"Justice Fataiki's judgment against the forum was a slap in the face, as the organization was endeavoring to achieve a quick resolution to its case, the result of which the CCF believes may stop the August general elections from needing to go ahead.

"The CCF is challenging the President's decision to reappoint Laisenia Qarase as caretaker prime minister.

"Sir Vijay Singh’s letter to the chief registrar, dated the 25th of May, noted that the judge to be appointed should dispose of the CCF case expeditiously.

"Sir Vijay said that the ten days indicated by the Chief Justice's office before it is expected to appoint a replacement for Judge Fataiki is too long.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia, Suva."

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

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