23 May 2009

Chief justice in Fiji reappointed to office

5:57 am on 23 May 2009

Fiji's president has reappointed the country's chief justice and named three judges, after scrapping the constitution and sacking the judiciary last month.

The dismissals on 10 April came after the Court of Appeal ruled the government of 2006 coup leader, interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, was illegal.

Anthony Gates has returned as chief justice and two other judges - also supporters of the regime - were sworn back in. Lawyer Sosefo Inoke was appointed as a new judge.

The BBC reports the new appointments were made despite legal groups urging senior lawyers to reject posts offered by the military, arguing that it would undermine the independence of the judiciary system and give legitimacy to the regime.

Those reinstated include two High Court judges - Anthony Gates and Devendra Pathik - who had previously ruled that the military coup in 2006 was legal.

Commodore Bainimarama intends to rewrite the constitution and introduce electoral changes before a democratic poll can be held.

The president also abolished the constitution on 10 April. Emergency rule was imposed after the ruling by the appeal court.

Strict censorship of the media is still in place.

More appointments expected

Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khayum says the latest appointments will enable some courts to reopen. Radio New Zealand International reports he expects more High Court judges to be appointed soon.

The Pacific Islands Forum suspended Fiji after a deadline expired on 1 May for a date to be set for elections this year.

The coup in December 2006 was the fourth since 1987.