23 May 2011

NZ not ruling out allowing Fiji officer refuge

11:03 am on 23 May 2011

Prime Minister John Key is not ruling out allowing a former Fiji military commander to take refuge in New Zealand.

Lieutenant-Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara faces sedition charges in Fiji and has fled to Tonga. The authorities in Fiji are seeking his extradition.

Mr Key says the sanctions New Zealand has imposed on members of the regime in Fiji no longer apply to Colonel Mara, so he and his wife could be granted the right to live in this country if a request was made.

He says the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is looking at the situation, but Colonel Mara has made no formal approach regarding the matter.

In Fiji, police say the escape of Colonel Mara was well orchestrated.

Police spokesperson Atunaisa Sokomuri told local media a number of associates helped Colonel Mara flee and most of these individuals are now being questioned by police.