24 Apr 2003

Fiji coup front man refuses to take stand in cousin's trial

10:24 am on 24 April 2003

The Fiji coup frontman George Speight has refused to take the witness stand in the trial of his cousin, Varinava Tiko.

Tiko is charged with a number of serious offences related to the coup when he led the armed seizure of Korovou town in Speight's home province, Tailevu.

In pleading not guilty, Tiko told the magistrate that he wanted Speight, who is serving a life sentence on Nukulau island, to appear as a defence witness.

But the Daily Post quotes Speight's brother and government MP, Samisoni Tikonisau, as saying Speight has refused to appear as a witness.

Mr Tikonisau says Speight conveyed this to him during a family visit to Nukulau but he did not give any reasons.

Mr Tikonisau says Speight did give him a message for Tailevu chiefs and villagers also facing charges in connection with the illegal seizure of Korovou which he was not at liberty to reveal.

Six chiefs who have already pleaded guilty to the seizure of Korovou through a series of charges ranging from unlawfu; assembly to wrongful confinement of 33 police officers and nine soldiers taken hostage, have been given suspended sentences.