FIJI COURT MARTIAL GOES EASY ON MUTINEERS

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SUVA. Fiji (Fiji Times, Feb. 11) – Two former Fiji soldiers who pleaded guilty to mutiny at the army camp in November 2000 were released yesterday while 10 of their counterparts escaped lengthy prison terms after a military court martial.

The ten former Counter Revolutionary Warfare (CRW) unit soldiers received sentences ranging from one to three years.

But the men were warned that the decision must not be regarded as setting a precedent on appropriate sentences for mutiny.

Court martial president Lieutenant Colonel Apakuki Kurusiga said the sentences were influenced by the fact that the men were in pre-trial detention for as long as five years.

The court martial will convene again next week as it begins the trial of eight other former CRW men who earlier pleaded not guilty to mutiny. Yesterday Private Pauliasi Namulo and Private Feoko Gadekibua were the only ones released from custody in view of the time they had served.

The court passed a one-year sentence to Lance Corporal Barbados Mills, Private Emosi Qicatabua, Lance Corporal Daniele Koroitavalena, Private Beniame Sokiveta, Corporal Maciu Tawake and Lance Corporal Eparama Waqatairewa.

It found that as junior non-commissioned officers, the six men had limited command responsibility for the mutiny.

The sentence for Qicatabua, Sokiveta and Tawake was to be served at the same time as their coup-related jail terms (concurrent).

Corporal Isireli Cakau was jailed for one year eight months to be served concurrent to his coup-related sentence.

Corporal Metuisela Railumu received a two-year jail term when the court found that he also had limited command responsibility.

It said the term should be served concurrent to his coup related sentence.

The court handed down a three-year sentence to Sergeant Malakai Cakaunitabua because he was a senior non-commissioned officer and had significant command responsibility.

It said the term was to be served concurrent with his coup-related sentence.

Another Sergeant Peni Bitu was jailed for two years.

The court said that mutiny was a serious criminal offence that was punishable by death in former times.

"The attempted mutiny struck at the very heart of military discipline. The mutiny has also called into question the professionalism of the military and its personnel, most of whom are dedicated and loyal soldiers," the judgment said.

"The uprising of November 2000 is a terrible stain on the once proud record of the RFMF. This court cannot ignore the fact that a number of soldiers were killed during the mutiny."

The court martial would try the remaining eight accused who pleaded not guilty.

The court will sit on Thursday next week to confirm whether defence lawyer Vodo Tuberi was available to represent the former soldiers.

February 13, 2006

Fiji Times: http://www.fijitimes.com/

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