MORE ARRESTS LIKELY IN FIJI UNREST

SUVA, Fiji Islands (January 4, 2002 - FM96, Sun/PINA Nius Online)---Fiji authorities say more arrests are likely over an alleged plot by supporters of coup leader George Speight to kidnap the prime minister, military commander and other leaders.

Police Commissioner Isikia Savua told journalists the alleged conspirators planned to hold the group hostage until the government freed Speight.

Alleged targets included Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase and military commander Frank Bainimarama.

Roadblocks and checkpoints returned to Suva streets today as part of security forces operations.

The revelations came as four men appeared in court in Suva yesterday charged with conspiracy to commit a felony.

Speight is facing charges of treason after he and indigenous Fijian rebel gunmen took hostage the country’s first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, and his government in May 2000. This started the Fiji coup crisis.

Speight and key supporters are being held on an island prison off Suva.

The four men who were arrested on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges when they appeared in the Suva Magistrates' Court yesterday. They were remanded in custody.

Varinava Tiko, a failed politician; Jo Waqabaca, a former military officer; Anare Waqavonovono and Joeli Vesikula were originally taken in for questioning for being in possession of arms.

Assistant Police Commissioner Kevueli Bulimaivalu said police had received information that the men were planning to cause instability in certain parts of the country.

Tiko was arrested in 2000 for his role in holding police officers and soldiers hostage in Korovou Town during the hostilities after the May 19 coup crisis began.

Waqavonovono was also involved in an earlier arms incident. He and two others were armed when they tried to storm the Nabua Police Station in Suva to reach Henry Ali, who was being held for killing Waqavonovono’s son.

Ali was jailed by a military court martial for shooting Waqavonovono Junior in Lebanon after they had an argument. Both were serving with Fiji peacekeeping forces in southern Lebanon.

For additional reports from theFM96, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Radio/TV News/Fiji Village News (FM96/Navtarang.VitiFM).

Pacific Islands News Association (PINA) Website: http://www.pinanius.org 

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