ACQUITTALS IN FIJI RAMPAGE RAISE CONCERN

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, Feb. 5) - State prosecutors in Fiji plan to appeal a magistrate’s decision to acquit nine villagers charged with terrorizing and stealing from farmers in the anti-Indian violence that followed the May 2000 coup.

The nine are from Muaniweni where the violence was greatest and forced nearly 400 people to flee to a refugee camp on the far side of Fiji in Lautoka.

They were charged with robbery with violence, wounding with intent and larceny of cattle and root crops.

Naurori magistrate, Amani Rokotinaviti, acquitted the accused on the grounds of insufficient evidence because the men could not be positively identified in the darkness when the crimes occurred.

In an editorial today, the Fiji Times says the acquittal is worrying and prosecutors should bring such cases to court only with the necessary evidence.

It says the case does nothing to restore confidence in Fiji’s legal system and will be of concern to the victims in Muaniweni.

February 5, 2003

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