Former Fiji Military Commander Found Guilty By Judge

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‘Not guilty’ verdict made by assessors overturned in court

SUVA, Fiji (Fijilive, Nov. 26, 2013) – High Court Judge Justice Paul Madigan has overturned the assessors' verdict and found former Fiji Land Force Commander Pita Driti guilty of inciting mutiny.

Mitigation and sentencing has been deferred to December 10, 2013. Driti remains in custody.

Justice Madigan said he did not believe the evidence of the accused and found him "evasive, divertive, petulant and ungracious." He said in comparison Manasa Tagicakibau is an honest and convincing witness, finding nothing in the evidence of Driti to counter it.

"He told the court of meetings with the accused in which he was asked not once but at least twice to use his private intelligence cell, the existence of which was known to the accused, to conduct surveillance on the Attorney General," Justice Madigan said of Tagicakibau.

"The rationale behind that request was quite clearly to get information to discredit the Attorney and to 'bring him down.' That, coupled with the stated perception of the witness (Tagicakibau) that, whatever had been said as to 'removal' or 'elimination,' he had the impression that the Attorney’s life was to be taken.

"That in itself does not make him [Driti] guilty, nor does he have anything to prove but he contradicted himself and gave evidence that was incapable of belief, thereby in no way detracting from the compelling evidence of Tagicakibau."

Justice Madigan said Tagicakibau's evidence and the surrounding circumstances established an "overwhelming case against the accused."

"I cannot believe that he knew nothing of any 'plans' until Lt. Colonel Mara visited him in mid September. He was before that time, on his own admission, receiving official and unofficial intelligence reports on at least a weekly basis."

Justice Madigan also referred to the evidence submitted by warrant officer Korovou who said discussions with Driti led him to believe that there was going to be another coup.

"The fact given in evidence by the accused, that on hearing of the plan he did nothing but stand back and consider it without reporting it to the Commander, does not serve him well.

"The irresistible inference is that he supported it and was doing whatever he could to justify it and further it.

"Thinking that the plan may have been a 'set-up' did not lead to the accused to take appropriate steps to deal with a possible 'set-up.' Asking the purported architect of the plan : 'is this a set-up?' does nothing to create confidence in his evidence.

"I find beyond reasonable doubt that at the relevant times he was making an attempt to persuade the major [Tagicakibau] from his loyalties to both Service and State."

Justice Madigan also ordered that since the main count had been proved, the alternative on the charge of making seditious comments was dropped.

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