26 Nov 2002

Treason trial opens in Fiji of two coup accomplices

6:09 pm on 26 November 2002

The treason trial of the two remaining Fiji coup accomplices has opened in Suva today despite an application for a stay of proceedings.

High court judge, Andrew Wilson, ordered that the trial of Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu go ahead, pending a decision on an application to adjourn proceedings made in the Appeal Court by Silatolu's lawyer, Sevuloni Valenitabua.

Mr Valenitabua wanted the trial adjourned until a ruling is made on an appeal by the attorney general's office.

The office lodged an appeal last month against a high court order that it hire a lawyer for Silatolu, saying he's able to pay for his own defence.

Mr Valenitabua says the trial has now begun.

"The two accused were arraigned ...The charge was read to them, and they had pleaded not guilty. Right now we are in the introduction process, where the judge has been addressing the assessors. Five assessors have been sworn in."

Nata and Silatolu were the only two of a group of twelve who pleaded not guilty to treason when they were charged earlier this year.

Coup front man, George Speight, and his group pleaded guilty with Speight being sentenced to life and the others to lesser terms.