FIJI COUP PRISONERS SEEK RELEASE FROM JAIL

SUVA, Fiji (Radio Fiji/PINA, Jan. 6) - Nine of 11 prisoners now serving sentences in a special island prison off Suva for their involvement in the 2000 Fiji coup have applied to be let out.

They have sought compulsory supervision orders, a system where Fiji prisoners are allowed to finish their sentences staying at home under special rules.

Attorney-General Qoriniasi Bale said the applications would go through the Prisons Department system for assessment.

The department will assess each individual application first before it is submitted to the Minister for Justice for consideration and a decision on the issue.

Bale said as the Minister for Justice he has the power to release prisoners under Compulsory Supervision Orders.

Bale said certain conditions apply and these include the prisoners having to report to the local police station several times a week or to involve themselves in community work.

The nine who have applied are known to include Ilisoni Ligairi, a former head of the army's Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit, and indigenous Fijian nationalist politician Iliesa Duvuloco.

They are not believed to include coup front man George Speight, the Suva businessman who pleaded guilty to treason and was jailed for life.

Those who have applied were charged with lesser offences and were jailed for fewer than five years each.

All the men are on Nukulau Island, a former park and picnic spot which was converted into a special prison to isolate the coup accused from other prisoners.

Trials of civilians and military court martials of rebel soldiers allegedly involved in the coup and turmoil which followed are continuing.

January 7, 2003

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