23 Jul 2002

Defence lawyer's illness delays court martial of Fiji mutineers

10:18 am on 23 July 2002

The court martial of fifteen Fiji soldiers charged with the November 2000 mutiny has again been put off at a critical point.

Radio FM-96 says the court is due to hear a police statement from the leader of the mutineers, Captain Shane Stevens, which is expected to reveal the names of senior military officers allegedly implicated in the rebellion.

The court martial has been delayed until the 5th of August because defence lawyer, Rabo Matebalavu, is sick and has been admitted to hospital while one of the defendants who was also one of the gunmen in the coup is suffering from chest pains.

Meanwhile, the army says it has lost track of the whereabouts in the United States of Lt Col Filipo Tarakinikini who is wanted in Fiji for questioning allegedly because he had a hand in planning the May 2000 coup.

The officer attempted to resign from the army while in New York earlier this year but the military refused to accept his resignation.

The army is now reported to have gathered fresh and highly incriminating evidence against Lt Col Tarakinikini.