7 Nov 2007

Alleged Fiji plotters on remand until Thursday's court appearance

4:12 pm on 7 November 2007

The group of Fiji men charged with inciting mutiny and conspiracy to commit murder re-appeared in the Suva magistrate's court today and have been further remanded in custody until a decision on their bail application tomorrow.

The charges were read to Naitasiri paramount chief, Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, his brother-in-law and former army officer, Col Jone Baledrokadroka, and the former Fiji Intelligence Service director, Col Metuisela Mua.

Also in the dock charged with the same offences were former MP Peceli Rinakama and a group of former special forces soldiers some of whom had also taken part in the George Speight coup and November 2000 mutiny.

The court was told that between August 1st and November 3rd this year the accused allegedly conspired to incite military officers Peniasi Kuli and Isirei Lewaqai against the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

They are also charged with five counts of conspiracy to murder where it is alleged that they plotted to kill the interim prime minister, Commodore Bainimarama, the interim finance minister Mahendra Chaudhry and the interim attorney general, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

The lives of two military officers, Lt Col Samuela Saumatua and Lt Col Sitiveni Qiliho, were also targetted.

No plea was taken after the charges were read.

Defence lawyers made submissions why the accused should be given bail.

Col Baledrokadroka's lawyer, Davnesh Sharma, made an application on behalf of all saying they would agree to strict bail conditions and their clients were willing to be put under a strict curfew for the next six to eight weeks.

Other lawyers made submissions that their clients are men of status in society and there are no records of their breaching bail conditions.

Magistrate John Semisi had adjourned the case till tomorrow and remanded the accused in custody.

Meanwhile, staff from the New Zealand High Commission in Fiji are about to see the New Zealand businessman Ballu Khan in a Suva hospital.

The Foreign Minister Winston Peters says the Fiji authorities have agreed to allow commission staff regular access to Mr Khan and the other New Zealander arrested by police, Sivaniolo Naulago.

Both men were arrested in connection with an alleged plot.

Mr Khan was injured while being arrested and Mr Peters says it's still not clear how serious his injuries are.

Meanwhile, a former Fiji prime minister and 1987 coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, says a possible invasion of Fiji is not plausible.

The authorities have alleged that the plot involved instigating an invasion but the military commander has said there is no sign of New Zealand or Australia playing any role in the alleged conspiracy.

Mr Rabuka says it would be stupid for any country to consider such a scheme.

"It would be very difficult and downright stupid for any nation to try and invade a country at the invitation of a small group."

Sitiveni Rabuka