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By Alumeci Nakeke

SUVA, Fiji (FijiSUN, Nov. 11) –Twenty-nine Fiji soldiers who pleaded guilty to mutiny in the May 2000 coup were sentenced yesterday to two to seven years in prison.

Of those sentenced, 22 were members of the Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit (CRW) and the other seven were members of the plant troop of the Engineers Unit.

Court martial President Lieutenant-Colonel Ilaisa Kacisolomone said the soldiers disobeyed the highest authority on the land.

"You went to Parliament and disobeyed the President and Commander-In-Chief, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, and the commander, Voreqe Bainimarama, and took the Prime Minister and members of Parliament hostage for a number of days," Lt-Col Kacisolomone said. "All have helped George Speight and admitted the facts."

Judge advocate Justice Sarvanand Sadal told the court that the sentences would be served concurrently.

"For CRW soldiers already convicted and serving sentences for the 2 November, 2000, mutiny, sentences passed will be served concurrently as from today (yesterday)," he said.

Mr Kacisolomone told the court that members of the Engineers Unit sentenced yesterday would be considered for re-enlistment after serving their sentences.

"This is for their contribution to rural development and for assisting loyal soldiers during the November 2, 2000, mutiny," he said.

After the sentences were pronounced, defense counsel Vodo Tuberi told the court that the rest of his clients, except for one who had pleaded not guilty, wanted to change their pleas. The court was then adjourned for 15 minutes and when reconvened another 20 changed their pleas.

Eleven of those who had a change of pleas were Mr Tuberi’s clients. Six from the 20 were clients of Sevuloni Valenitabua, two from Legal Aid and one was represented by Major Sunia Vosaki. Mr Valenitabua also told the court that some were still double-minded and asked if they could be given time to consider to which the prosecution agreed.

Sentenced to seven years were Lieutenant Penaia Balinamau, Lt Serupepeli Dakai, Private Walesio Liganivai, Sergeant Vilimoni Tikotani, WO1 Apaitia Waqanibor to six years and six months and five years and six months for Corporal Alikisio Alava. Staff Sgt Eparama Ravulo got five years, Sgt Malakai Cakaunitabua, Private Jona Nawaqa, Pte Emosi Qicatabua for four years six months, Sgt Jone Naisara, Pte Emosi Serukasari, Pte Waisea Lasekula, Pte Beniame Sokiveta, Pte Asivorosi Roko for four years, three years and six months for Cpl Sailosi Kolikoli, Pte Kilimo Ratu, SSGT Paulo Vakadranu, Sgt Atonio Celeasiga, Sgt Viliame Lotawa, WO1 Feskatoa Ravai, three years for Cpl Jese Ulaicake, Sgt Peni Malumu, Sapper William Taylor, Spr Inoke Vakuruivalu and two-year terms for Spr Epeli Boginisoko, LCpl Isimeli Vonokula, LCpl Sailosi Cavu and Spr Joji Vasua.

The court martial will reconvene next Monday.

November 11, 2004



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