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Fears he would not get fair trial from military regime

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (RNZI, May 19, 2011) - Fiji’s former army commander says torture is being used at the Queen Elizabeth barracks, but denies having ordered any.

Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Uluilakeba Mara left for Tonga after being charged with sedition, saying he feared he would not get a fair trial from Fiji’s military regime.

Colonel Mara says people are taken to the barracks for interrogation, and all kinds of things are happening there.

"You have the case of Ben Padarath, who was tortured up there, that all happened up at Queen Elizabeth barracks. It’s being conducted by a select group of soldiers, who operate under the commander himself. They are not answerable to anyone else but the commander himself."

Colonel Mara says he has never authorized or practiced any kind of torture.

[PIR editor’s note: In a separate report, former Colonel Mara also says the military regime has never had any intentions of holding democratic elections. The regime has refused to comment on allegations that the military tortures civilians.]

Fiji’s police commissioner Brigadier General Iowane Naivalurua has declined to confirm a report that a man was detained over Ratu Tevita’s escape.

Brigadier General Naivalurua has told Fijilive it does not matter whether one or ten people were taken in.

Earlier today, a top military officer Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga said that a man that went fishing with Ratu Tevita had been taken into police custody.

Although bescribed as a police operation, the military has taken Ratu Tevita’s wife in for questioning, but later released her.

The interim Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says it is not true that the President Ratu Epeli Nailatikau will be removed from office.

Commodore Bainimarama has told Fijilive that it should advise the international media not be naughty.

The report says that Television New Zealand claimed that Ratu Epeli would be removed from office in the next 24 hours.

The president is married to Adi Koila, a sister of Ratu Tevita.

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