23 Jan 2003

Fiji court martial of Labasa mutineers ends

6:42 am on 23 January 2003

The court martial of 56 Fiji soldiers found guilty of staging a mutiny at Labasa has ended with claims that the full truth is yet to be revealed.

The soldiers, led by two rebel officers, seized the Labasa barracks at the height of the May 2000 coup and took over its armoury in support of George Speight's overthrow of the Chaudhry government.

At the time, they were reported to be acting on the instruction of the leader of Speight's gunmen, Ilisoni Ligairi, who is now serving a prison sentence for his role in the coup.

But one of the 56, Private Apisai Lagilawa, has told the court martial the full truth about their actions has not been revealed.

A newspaper report says only Private Lagilawa made this claim.

But a Labasa resident who does not want to be named says Private Lagilawa should have told the truth because the soldiers were being used by some indigenous chiefs.

A former Chaudhry government minister and now member of the Fiji Democratic Party, Isireli Vuibau, says the leaders of the mutiny who were in the background successfully directed its operation by remote control.

The men will be sentenced next week.