11 Aug 2006

Fiji mutineers jailed for terms of three to eight years

8:06 am on 11 August 2006

Eight Fiji soldiers found guilty of the November 2000 army mutiny have been jailed for terms ranging from three to eight years.

The Fiji Times reports that four of the eight are already serving sentences for coup-related offences which they will complete in 2007 and 2008, after which they will begin their new sentences for mutiny.

The other four will begin their mutiny sentences immediately.

In mitigation last week, the soldiers had broken down and pleaded for mercy, and sought forgiveness from the military commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and other officers for their actions.

Handing down the sentences, the president of the court martial, Lt Col Apakuki Kurusiga, said "the offence of mutiny is the most serious charge that can be laid against a serving soldier."

Lt Col Kurusiga said "it carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment and in previous times the offence was punishable by death."

He said the November 2000 mutiny had created suspicion and distrust from which the army will take many years to recover.

The mutiny was aimed at assassinating Commodore Bainimarama and freeing George Speight, and resulted in eight deaths and more than 30 injuries.