FIJI COUP CONVICTS SEEK BAIL PENDING APPEAL

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji 1 News, August 9) - Lawyers representing those imprisoned after last week’s coup trial today filed an application for bail pending appeal in the courts today. They have stated several grounds of appeal, even questioning the role of the trial judge in guiding the assessors.

Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure’s lawyer, Abhay Singh, who filed the application for bail pending appeal for the defense team, alleges among other things, that trial Judge Nazhat Shameem misdirected the five assessors at her summing up on the evidence and the law, and that she was biased.

Another defense lawyer, Serupepeli Naqase, filed affidavits for his clients Ratu Volavola and Savu this afternoon; he said their 14 grounds of appeal are backed by concrete evidence.

The application for bail pending appeal and reasons for the substantive appeal were filed with the Court of Appeal President Gordon Ward who will allocate a hearing date some time this week.

Last Friday, Ratu Jope Seniloli was sentenced to four years imprisonment, Deputy Speaker Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure was jailed for six years, former parliamentarians Peceli Rinakama and Ratu Viliame Volavola got three years each while Viliame Savu is serving a 12-month term.

Meanwhile, a Suva lawyer says any application for pardon to the Prerogative of Mercy Commission can only be done if an accused person has exhausted all legal avenues available to him under the law.

Samuela Matawalu was commenting on arguments on the issue of pardon for Ratu Jope Seniloli and his co-accused who are behind bars after being found guilty of taking an unlawful oath to become rebel President and Ministers in George Speight’s government.

Samuela Matawalu agrees the Constitution specifies that any person convicted of an offence may be pardoned by the Prerogative of Mercy Commission headed by the Attorney General and two other nominees. However, Matawalu pointed out that the practice has been that this question can only be considered once the prisoner has exhausted all legal avenues open to him. Matawalu says the decision to give pardon to a prisoner lies solely with the government of the day, however that privilege has to be exercised responsibly.

The Suva lawyer explained pardon cannot be given on the grounds of public sympathy, but in accordance with public policy and in the interest of Justice and society. Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure’s lawyer Abhay Singh says they are not rushing into the issue just yet. The Defense earlier today filed papers in the Court of Appeal.

Meanwhile, the Great Council of Chiefs secretariat is expected to know tomorrow its legal status on the sentencing and imprisonment of the Vice President. GCC Secretary Asesela Sadole confirmed that a meeting was scheduled with the Attorney General Qoroniasi Bale this afternoon.

The Attorney General is expected to brief the GCC on the next legal step it needs to undertake that could see an unscheduled meeting being convened.

August 10, 2004

FijiTV: http://www.fijitv.com.fj/index.html

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