29 Jan 2003

Fiji coup accomplice, Timoci Silatolu gives sworn evidence at treason trial

7:49 am on 29 January 2003

The Fiji coup accomplice, Timoci Silatolu, has told the Suva High Court he joined those who overthrew the Chaudhry government because he feared for his life.

Silatolu who is on trial for treason along with fellow coup accomplice, Josefa Nata, swore on the Bible that he would tell the whole truth.

He said when members of the Chaudhry government were taken hostage at gunpoint and tied up with their hands behind their backs, he took the option offered by coup front man, George Speight, not to be held like the others.

Silatolu admitted attending a meeting the previous day to plan a nationalist march against the government which was chaired by Apisai Tora who is now a government senator.

Despite the production of evidence of five lengthy phone calls Silatolu made to Speight in the hours immediately before the coup, Silatolu denied making them.

A prosecution witness in the trial, Simione Drole, who is serving a jail sentence for his role in the coup, had earlier told the court that it was Silatolu who called Speight a few minutes before the coup and gave the go-ahead for the overthrow of the Chaudhry government.

Drole also said Silatolu had helped in transporting military weapons used in the coup.

Silatolu was sworn in as the prime minister in Speight's failed administration less than 24 hours after the coup.

The treason trial will continue today.