30 Jan 2003

Fiji court martial sentences two soldiers to life imprisonment for Labasa mutiny

8:08 am on 30 January 2003

A military court martial in Fiji has sentenced the two leaders of 56 soldiers found guilty of mutiny at Labasa at the height of the May 2000 coup to life imprisonment.

Lieutenant Rupeni Vosayaco and Lieutenant Nemani Valeniyasana received life for leading the mutiny and 13 years each for taking part in it.

Both men had pleaded guilty to inciting 54 other soldiers to mutiny and unlawfully seizing control of the Labasa army barracks from its lawful commander

The court martial also sentenced the remaining 54 mutineers to terms ranging from four to ten years.

In handing down the sentences, the president of the court martial, Col Ilaisa Kacisolomone, called fopr an investigation into what he called the disloyalty virus within the military which has the potential to become an epidemic.

Colonel Kacisolomone, also called for an investigation into influential Labasa chiefs, including a current government senator, who instigated the mutiny and persuaded the mutineers to describe themselves as soldiers of the people.

The rebellion was staged in support of the George Speight-led coup in parliament in which the Chaudhry government was overthrown and taken hostage by Suva-based soldiers.