FIJI COURT TRIMS FORMER SPEAKER’S JAIL SENTENCE

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SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, June 16) – The Supreme Court yesterday reduced the jail term of the former deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, from six to four years.

Ratu Rakuita had been jailed for six years in April 2004 by High Court judge Justice Nazhat Shameem for taking an unlawful oath.

He had been accused of taking part in the swearing-in ceremony to be the Attorney-General and Justice Minister in the illegal George Speight regime. He appealed against the sentence in the Fiji Court of Appeal but this was dismissed on November 3, 2004.

He then applied to the Supreme Court for special leave raising two grounds of appeal.

On the first ground, Ratu Rakuita who was representing himself in both courts, argued that one of the assessors was biased. The second ground was based on the fact that the two-year limitation period for treason in Section 54 of the Penal Code 1944 had expired before the commencement of the prosecution.

The three judges who heard his case in the Supreme Court were Justice Daniel Fatiaki, Justice Kenneth Handley and Justice Michael Scott.

Justice Fatiaki, who is the president of the Supreme Court, delivered the ruling yesterday. He dismissed the first ground of appeal as "without substance".

On the second ground of appeal, Justice Fatiaki said the trial judge had taken into account as matters of aggravation his treasonable activities before and after he took an unlawful oath.

On this, Justice Fatiaki said the trial judge had imposed an extra two years imprisonment.

Justice Fatiaki said Ratu Rakuita had not been and could not be charged in respect of these activities.

He said the Supreme Court held that they should not be taken into account on sentence.

He, therefore, ordered the sentence of six years imprisonment imposed by the trial judge be quashed.

"In lieu thereof, the petitioner is sentenced to four years imprisonment to date from April 6, 2004," he said

Meanwhile, former vice president Ratu Jope Seniloli appeared in the High Court yesterday to argue his early release from jail on a compulsory supervision order was proper.

The Citizens Constitutional Forum had asked the court to review the decision by the Attorney General to grant Ratu Jope the Compulsory Supervision Order.

Yesterday Judge Jiten Singh adjourned the case to July 4 because he wanted to give Ratu Jope the chance to explain why he had appealed for a Compulsory Supervision Order.

Judge Singh had asked Ratu Jope's lawyer Devanesh Sharma to file an affidavit.

Law Solutions, the law firm which represented the Citizens Constitutional Forum said The Solicitor from Law Solutions who represented Citizens Constitutional Forum said the Ratu Jope had appealed for a Compulsory Supervision Order from the High Court on April 28.

But the appeal was dismissed on the basis of being biased and on the fact that Ratu Jope had failed to attend any of the court proceedings.

June 16, 2006

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

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