TOP FIJI OFFICIALS GET EARLY RELEASE FROM JAIL

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SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, April 15, 2005) - A former Fiji cabinet minister and a senator were released from prison today after serving just 10 days of an eight-month sentence, the prisons commissioner has confirmed.

Former Lands Minister Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu and Senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri were convicted of unlawful assembly in relation to a takeover of an army barracks at Labasa during the 2000 crisis.

The two, both members of the nationalist party Conservative Alliance Matanitu Vanua (CAMV), were sentenced by the Labasa Magistrates Court on April 4.

Commissioner of Prisons Aisea Taoka confirmed to Fijilive the two were released. But he referred questions on the details and conditions of their release to Labasa prison's Assistant Commissioner Sairusi Gauna who was in Taiveuni and could not be contacted.

If sentenced for 12 months or less, the Commissioner of Prisons has the prerogative to allow a convict to serve his sentence as an extra-mural prisoner.

CAMV party president Ratu Tanoa Visawaqa Cakobau also confirmed to Fijilive he had received a call from Labasa that the two had been released.

Ratu Tanoa could not say under what conditions the politicians were released.

He was also still awaiting calls from Ratu Naiqama and Ratu Josefa.

April 15, 2005

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