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27 accused of breaching Public Emergency Regulations

By Shalveen Chand SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Times, march 24, 2010) - Twenty-five Methodist Church ministers and executives yesterday pleaded not guilty to charges in relation to alleged breaches of the Public Emergency Regulation last year.

Magistrate Thushara Rajasinghe also issued a bench warrant for two ministers Reverends William Lucas and Emmanuelle Reuben after they failed to appear in court when the plea was taken. This bench warrant was later cancelled in the afternoon.

The two men’s lawyer, Diven Prasad, had asked the court if Reuben’s bail conditions could be amended to allow for overseas travel.

He was told by Mr. Rajasinghe that there could be no talk on bail because the charges were withdrawn for the time being.

Lucas and Reuben had appeared in the morning when individual charges against all 27 church members (Lucas and Reuben included) were withdrawn and consolidated into one file. State prosecutor David Toganivalu applied to consolidate the charges, but was told that he would first have to withdraw the charges and then file fresh ones under one file.

The charges relate to meetings alleged to have been held without a permit as required under the PER.

Those charged include senior church reverends such as Tomasi Kanailagi, Manasa Lasaro, Tuikilakila Waqairatu. Ame Tugaue and Timoci Nawadra.

The case has now been adjourned to April 21 to set a hearing date.

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