29 Nov 2002

Deposed Fiji PM tells court of attacks on him during 2000 coup

6:23 am on 29 November 2002

Fiji's deposed prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, has spoken about how he was assaulted and had his life threatened after he and his government were taken hostage at gunpoint in the May 2000 coup.

Radio Fiji says Mr Chaudhry made the revelations while giving evidence in the treason trial of a member of his government, Timoci Silatolu, and journalist Josefa Nata.

Mr Chaudhry spoke about a gun being pointed at his head and verbal abuse by his captives.

He said the day after the coup he was dragged on to the parliament lawns by six youths who assaulted him and broke his ribs and injured his right knee.

He said he was forced to stand facing the wall for hours during 56 days in captivity.

Mr Chaudhry said armed guards who were holding the ethnic Indian hostages often verbally abused them, calling them heathens and kept forcing them to become Christians.

He recalled how he was told to resign as prime minister and to tender the resignation of his coalition government.

Mr Chaudhry said he refused.

Another former minister, Dr Tupeni Baba, also refused to witness the swearing-in ceremony of George Speight as prime minister and Ratu Jope Seniloli as president.

Mr Chaudhry told the high court he did not want to legitmise anything.

He has refuted defence claims that Silatolu came to rescue him. Instead, he said, Silatolu asked him to resign.