14 Nov 2002

Fiji lawyer asks for suspended sentences for landowners

12:40 pm on 14 November 2002

The Fiji lawyer representing the Monasavu indigenous landowners is asking the magistrate to hand down suspended sentences over the takeover of the hydro dam two years ago.

18 landowners have pleaded guilty to illegal possession of firearms and to setting up a roadblock after they seized weapons from soldiers guarding the dam.

Sevuloni Valenitabua says the military brutally assaulted some of the landowners after they were arrested and they've also spent the last two years in and out of court.

Mr Valenitabua says he's hoping for a suspended sentence of between 12 to 18 months.

"That can be a threat over their heads to make sure they keep out of trouble. I tell you this. They way they have been treated by the soldiers and police officers, they do not intend to repeat what they did."

Mr Valenitabua says they will be appealing if the landowners are sent to jail.

Sentencing is set for November 22nd.