27 Mar 2003

Fiji abolition of death penalty to be challenged

7:43 am on 27 March 2003

The Fiji government's law change abolishing the death penalty for treason has come under legal challenge.

The law was changed last year just 24 hours after the coup front man, George Speight, was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to treason and had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Radio Fiji reports that the director of public prosecutions has filed a notice of motion to challenge the validity of the amendment to the penal code.

The case arises from last week's conviction of coup accomplices Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu for treason.

Justice Wilson said then that it was not in the interests of justice that one traitor (Speight) convicted of treason got the death penalty while two others (Nata and Silatolu) also guilty of the same crime, committed at the same time, get a different sentence.

Justice Wilson has now ordered the DPP's Office to file written submissions within the next 21 days to establish the invalidity of the law change.

All other parties will have time to reply to the DPP's submission after which the court will reconvene, on the 11th of June when oral submissions willl also be heard.

If the change to the penal code is then declared invalid, Nata and Silatolu will be sentenced to death.