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Four individuals accused for threatening public safety

By Jyoti Pratibha SUVA, Fiji (Fiji Sun, Jan. 4, 2012) – In Fiji, Chief Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili will today make his ruling on whether the four people charged with inciting political violence will be released on bail.

The four, businesswoman and former parliamentarian Mere Samisoni, former MP and Cabinet minister Mataiasi Ragigia, Apete Vereti and unionist Semisi Lasike are charged with urging political violence contrary to section 65 (1) (b) of the Crime Decree number 44 of 2009.

Peter Williams QC represented Samisoni, while Samanunu Vaniqi appeared for the other three, on behalf of Aseri Vakaloloma of Vakaloloma and Associates.

Lawyer Ilisapeci Whippy of the Director of Public Prosecutions office objected to bail for the four, telling the court that under Section 19 (1) (c) of the Bail Act, bail could be denied to those who are charged with offences against the public interest.

She told the court that the DPP had a solid case against the four, adding that "the case was of such nature that the accused planned to cause civil unrest by torching or burning down business-houses".

Ms. Whippy said that the four could endanger public interest and that the offence they were charged with affected the entire country.

She asked the court to remand the four in custody until things calmed down.

In making his submission for the bail application, Mr. Williams told the court that Samisoni was a "remarkable lady" and that the environment of the remand cells was not conducive for a 73-year-old woman.

He said that despite being held in remand for five days, Samisoni was complimenting the efforts of police officers in making her comfortable while in police custody.

The court heard that Samisoni was not a flight risk, she had "love for Fiji" and that she had business-vested interests and family-vested interests in Fiji.

"This lady is a part of the history of this country and has had a long history of service to the community. The lady has been co-operative, there has been no attempt by her to evade police and her attitude towards police has been co-operative."

[PIR editor’s note: Samisoni has been released on bail as of today, after allegedly lasting through five days of interrogations without legal counsel present.]

In making her bail application for Ragigia, Vereti and Lasike, Ms. Vaniqi cited section 17 (2) and section 19 (2) (b) (ii) of the Bail Act.

She also drew attention to the case of Fiji businessman Ballu Khan, who was charged with threatening to kill key members of the government, yet was allowed bail.

She told court that Vereti was 57-years-old, earned $300 weekly and he had his wife and three children financially dependent on him.

She also pointed out that Vereti had a history of asthma and his stay in the remand cell could worsen his condition.

While making bail application for Lasike, 54, Ms. Vaniqi said Lasike was diabetic. She told the court that while in remand, he had to be taken to hospital after his condition worsened.

On behalf of Ragigia, 54, Ms. Vaniqi told the court that for the seven days he spent in remand, he had to be escorted home daily for hot shower and special food. He had surgery in 2006, and now required a massage daily.

Ms. Whippy said if released on bail, the four had to abide by nine bail conditions, which included not changing their residential addresses, reporting to the nearest police station thrice weekly, to be put on curfew, surrendering all travel documents to court, not interfering with State witnesses, not liaising with each other, to have two sureties in court and to deposit $10,000 in court as a surety as well.

Chief Magistrate Ratuvili will deliver his ruling on the bail application today.


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