16 Jan 2003

Cyclone Ami delays court martial of 56 Fiji soldiers charged with mutiny

6:40 am on 16 January 2003

Military court martial proceedings against 56 Fiji soldiers who have pleaded guilty to a charge of mutiny have been adjourned because of Cyclone Ami.

All the soldiers are from Vanua Levu where they seized the Labasa barracks after the May 2000 coup in support of George Speight's overthrow of the Chaudhry government.

Their lawyer, Harry Robinson, has told the court martial that witnesses from Labasa who would testify on behalf of the soldiers could not travel to Suva because of the disruption caused by the cyclone.

Mr Robinson said his clients would only be treated fairly by the court if their character witnesses were given time to travel to Suva.

The court martial has now been adjourned until tomorrow.

Among the 56 on trial are two officers who have also pleaded guilty to an additional charge of inciting mutiny.

The court martial was also told that government senator, Josefa Dimuri, was one of the first people to enter the Labasa barracks to brief the soldiers after they staged the mutiny.