IMMUNITY FROM TREASON CHARGES SOUGHT IN FIJI HIGH COURT

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SUVA, Fiji Islands (April 3, 2002 – Radio Australia)---Fiji coup leader George Speight's right hand man, Ratu Timoci Silatolu, is relying on a Court of Appeal judgment to gain immunity from a charge of treason.

As Radio Australia correspondent Ofa Kaukimoce reports, the judgment last year upheld the 1997 constitution and has been used in all legal challenges arising out of the May 2000 coup.

"Ratu Timoci is Speight's henchman, who was appointed Prime Minister soon after the overthrow of the Labour government. He is now standing trial for treason along with former journalist Josefa Nata.

"The defense counsel argues that his client should be granted immunity under the decree that army commander Frank Bainimarama signed just before Speight released the hostages. The defense also submitted in the High Court that if the 1997 constitution was in place when the army commander signed the immunity decree, then his client is entitled to immunity.

"The defense counsel is also seeking another legal clarification from the High Court. This is whether the decree was conditional on the return of arms from Parliament.

"The defence is pushing for a high court ruling on the validity of the immunity decree.

"Meanwhile, former journalist Josefa Nata is making similar submissions and is expected to file the necessary legal papers within seven days.

"High court judge Andrew Wilson has adjourned the case to next Thursday and has remanded Ratu Timoci and Nata in custody.

"Ofa Kaukimoce, Radio Australia News, Suva."

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

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