12 Apr 2003

Six Fji chiefs sentenced on charges arising from 2000 coup

9:06 am on 12 April 2003

Six Fiji chiefs who helped in the armed seizure of the main town in George Speight's home province of Tailevu during the coup have been given suspended sentences.

They pleaded guilty to the illegal takeover of Korovou town through a series of charges ranging from unlawful assembly to wrongful confinement of 33 police officers and nine soldiers taken hostage.

The chiefs claimed they were carrying out traditional obligations that were asked of them.

Magistrate Amani Rokotuinaviti sentenced the men to six months imprisonment after they pleaded guilty, but suspended the sentences for a year.

Eight other accused, including George Speight's cousin Varenava Tiko who led the takeover of the town, have pleaded not guilty.

Their case will be heard later with Tiko saying that Speight will be called from prison, where he is serving a life sentence, to give evidence on his behalf.