22 Jul 2002

Fiji treason trial begins in High Court

7:18 pm on 22 July 2002

The treason trial of Fiji coup accomplices, Jo Nata and Timoci Silatolu, opened in Suva this morning but only moments later Justice Andrew Wilson ordered the High Court cleared of journalists and the public.

This was after the defence counsel for Silatolu, Kitione Vuetaki, said he wanted to raise unspecified matters with the judge in closed session.

When the court resumed, Justice Wilson said he had granted Mr Vuetaki's application to withdraw from the case and would disclose the reasons later.

Radio Fiji says Silatolu has now applied for legal aid and it is expected that Justice Wilson will direct the Legal Aid Commission to represent him in the trial.

Hong Kong-based QC, Gerald McCoy from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, said he had no objections to Silatolu's application.

The second accused, Josefa Nata, is already represented by the director of legal aid, Makareta Waqavonovono.

Nata and Silatolu are being tried for their role in the May 2000 coup in which the Mahendra Chaudhry-led government was overthrown.

Mr Chaudhry is expected to be one of the first witnesses in the trial.