4 Sep 2002

Fiji army commander wants Tarakinikini to return from US for mutiny probe

6:33 am on 4 September 2002

Fiji's army commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says they can only move forward with their investigations into the November 2000 mutiny if Lt Col Filipo Tarakinikini returns to Fiji from the United States.

Commodore Bainimarama, who was the target of the uprising, says Lt Col Tarakinikini needs to tell investigators what he knows about the mutiny.

Radio FM-96 says he made the call after the officer, who has been in the US since early last year, was named as one of those implicated in a police statement given by the leader of the rebel soldiers, Captain Shane Stevens.

Stevens also named Colonel Ulaiasi Vatu, government senator Ratu Inoke Takiveikata and former prime minister Sitiveni Rabuka as the others who were behind the mutiny which claimed eight lives.

Meanwhile, Fiji police have given statements made by Col Vatu and Lt Col Tarakinikini to Rabo Matebalavu, the defence lawyer of the 15 facing court martial.

Mr Matebalavu asked for the statements even though two senior officers have not been charged and he is defending only the first 15 soldiers from the now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit.

Mr Matebalavu claims Stevens was not mentally and physically fit when he made the statements.

But police say they have a medical report stating that he was relaxed and well although he was recovering from injuries sustained in the firefight at the camp.