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By Robert Matau

SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, Dec. 19) - Jailed coup instigator Josefa Nata yesterday shook hands and sought forgiveness from the man who he and a number of other civilians kept hostage for 56 days in parliament seven years ago.

Interim Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry was on a tour of the Naboro Medium complex yesterday on the invitation of Commissioner of Prisons Brigadier Ioane Naivalurua when he was approached by Nata, a former journalist serving a life sentence for his part in the coup of 2000.

"I know this may be hard but I would like to apologize to you for any wrongs I may have done to you or your family during those times," he said.

Clad in prison clothes and barefoot, he made the approach as he sought forgiveness from Mr. Chaudhry.

Nata, a former publisher and qualified journalist, was jailed in 2003 for life for his part in that coup and has to spend seven years from that date before he can be considered for release. He may qualify for early release in 2010 two years from now.

Nata was George Speight's media advisor during the uprising led by the latter and supported by members of an elite unit of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces in 2000. Chaudhry was in a happy mood when he spoke to Nata but did not reveal what he told Nata as he left the Medium complex. Efforts to get comments from him plus faxed questions sent to him later proved futile.

Naivalurua said, "Nata asked me that if the minister did make the tour of the prison if he could personally apologize to him. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity for Joe as this was part of his own rehabilitation to seek forgiveness from someone he believes he has wronged and I believe he will now be a better person," he said.

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