FIJI SOLDIER ON TRIAL IDENTIFIED AS ASSAILANT

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Police officer claims to have witnessed murder

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, March 31, 2009) – A Fiji soldier who was this week denied immunity by the Supreme Court on a charge of murder for the death of one of several civilians following the 2006 military takeover, was today identified as the solider who assaulted victim Nimilote Verebasaga.

Private Maika Vuniwawa was identified by police Sergeant Sarwan Singh.

Taking the witness stand, Singh said he was on duty at the Police Command Centre at 4.30am on January 5, 2007 when he received a call about a minivan being seized by military officers.

"When I went towards the Lelean Memorial School to investigate at a checkpoint I could hear military officers yelling at a Fijian man who was on his knees," Singh said.

According to Singh, he saw Vuniwawa hitting the victim.

State lawyer Wilisoni Kurisiqila asked Singh why he did not stop the military officers. Singh said he did not wish to interfere in military matters.

Defense lawyer Haroon Ali Shah then asked Singh whether he had made a note of what he had seen. Singh said it was not his responsibility but the charging officer’s.

Vuniwawa is charged with 41-year-old Verebasaga’s murder.

Earlier this week, Supreme Court judge, Justice Daniel Goundar announced after reading the contents of a 2007 immunity promulgation, that the provisions of immunity were limited.

He said not every conduct of those persons who have been granted immunity under the promulgation was immune from prosecution.

Meanwhile, another witness Atunaisa Komaiwasa told Justice Goundar that in December 2006, Verebasaga went to Komaiwasa’s village of Nakelo and swore at the chief.

He said when he told Verebasaga to stop he was punched by him. The witness testified they got into a tussle and fell to the ground before some nearby youths stopped the fight.

He denied knowledge of a land dispute between Verebasaga and the village.

The trial continues tomorrow.

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