19 May 2004

Fiji's vice-president gets passport for planned Australia trip

8:34 pm on 19 May 2004

The Suva High Court has agreed to release the Fiji vice president's passport so he can travel to Australia for medical treatment.

Ratu Jope Seniloli's passport was seized when he was charged with serious coup related offences.

Radio Fiji reports that when Ratu Jope's lawyers filed legal papers for the return of his passport, the prosecution opposed the request.

But Justice Anthony Gates ruled that the vice president can travel before the 15th of June when his trial will begin.

Ratu Jope is facing a charge of taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise, which carry a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.

They relate to his being sworn in as George Speight's usurper president while Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was still in office.

Australia will be sending the most senior prosecutor in New South Wales, Mark Tedeschi QC, to conduct Ratu Jope's prosecution free of charge.

Fiji's deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, and sport minister. Isireli Leweniqila, will be facing the same charges for being sworn in as ministers in Speight's failed administration.