23 Aug 2002

Fiji court says coup accomplice qualifies for legal aid

4:18 pm on 23 August 2002

The Suva High Court has ordered the state to provide a defence lawyer for the Fiji coup accomplice, Timoci Silatolu, who is facing treason charges.

Radio Fiji says that after a hearing in chambers, Justice Andrew Wilson, ruled that Silatolu is not financially able to hire a private lawyer.

He said under the constitution, Silatolu has the right to a fair trial and equality under the law.

Justice Wilson also ordered that Silatolu receive the same treatment that has been accorded to his fellow coup accomplice, Josefa Nata, who is represented by the legal aid commission.

Silatolu's original lawyer, Kitione Vuetaki, withdrew from the case on the day the treason trial was to begin early last month because his name was discovered among coup related documents seized from Nata's home.

The trial has not proceeded since then because he has not been able to get the legal aid commission to defend him because it said he did not qualify on financial grounds.