28 Jun 2004

Fiji vice-president Seniloli knew about coup a day in advance - prosecutor

2:40 pm on 28 June 2004

The trial of Fiji's vice-president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, opened in Suva today with the revelation that he was told of the coup a day before it happened.

Radio Fiji reports that the lead prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi QC of New South Wales, told the High Court that this is based on records of Seniloli's police interview after the collapse of Speight's illegal administration.

According to police, George Speight had called Seniloli on the night of May the 18th, 2000, and informed him of his intention to overthrow the government the next day.

Mr Tedeschi said Speight also called Seniloli the next day and asked him to come to parliament and provide leadership.

Others also on trial are the deputy Speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalabure, the sports minister Isireli Leweniqila, Colonel Viliame Volavola, Peceli Rinakama and Viliame Savu.

Mr Tedeschi told the court to disregard any reason they might be put forward during the trial to excuse their association in the rebel administration with the intention of wrestling power away from the president and the elected government who were held hostage.

A Radio Legend report also quotes Mr Tedeschi as saying the six knew the consequences of taking up these appointments in an illegal administration when Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was still the legitimate president.

He said none of the accused refused the offer of posts in a rebel administration, they knew that these appointments were in the nature of treason and that the penalty for treason at that time was death.

The trial continues this afternoon.