15 Feb 2003

Fiji court martial confirms jurisdiction in trial of 25 mutineers

8:37 am on 15 February 2003

The court martial hearing the trial of 25 soldiers charged with the November 2000 mutiny has ruled that it has jurisdiction to hear the case.

Radio Fiji reports that lawyers Kelemedi Bulewa and Sevuloni Valenitabua had earlier argued that the court martial against five of the accused could not proceed because the prosecution had not complied with the rules of procedure.

But the president of the court, Colonel Matareti Sarasau, has ruled that the trial can go aheadeven if the rules of procedure may not have been complied with.

Asked whether the accused were ready to make a plea, defence lawyers said the accused needed time to understand the charges.

When the court martial resumed 45 minutes later, it could not proceed because two of the accused did not have legal representation.

The prosecution has asked the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, to provide senior officers to represent the two.

The court martial has been adjourned till March 4th.