26 Jun 2006

Fiji's Tarakinikini declared deserter

2:18 pm on 26 June 2006

Fiji's military has declared the controversial army officer, Lt Col Filipo Tarakinikini, a deserter and wants to return him to the country to answer charges of his alleged involvement in the Speight coup.

This follows a High Court ruling upholding President Iloilo's refusal to accept Tarakinikini's resignation from overseas.

In the ruling, Justice Gerard Winter said Tarakinikini was appointed chief of staff of the military by the coup front man, George Speight, and later investigated for his alleged involvement in the coup.

The military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, says army lawyers will be meeting today to decide the details of the charges to be laid against Tarakinikini and how to extradite him to Fiji.

Tarakinikini left Fiji in early 2001 to take up a United Nations job and has not returned since despite orders from the military.

Major Leweni says Tarakinikini will also face charges of being absent without official leave which is equivalent to deserting.

The opposition leader, Mick Beddoes, says the government should pay for Tarakinikini's extradition.