11 Jun 2003

Fiji coup accused told they must front up to all court dates

4:23 pm on 11 June 2003

Fiji's Vice President, Ratu Jope Seniloli, and five other co-accused charged with serious coup related offences have been told they must appear in court on all required mention dates even if they hold high office.

Radio Fiji reports that magistrate Eparama Roko-ika made the ruling after Ratu Jope's lawyer, Mehbood Raza, made an application asking if the vice president could be excused on the next mention date.

Mr Raza said this would enable all the lawyers representing the accused to deal withh administrative matters in court.

But Mr Rokoika said the attendance rule applies to all accused persons and the magistrate's court does not have any jurisdiction to change it.

Mr Rokoika said they could only be excused if they had to attend to any public functions or administrative matters, but the court would have to be informed in advance.

The Vice President, the Deputy Speakder of Parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, the Sports Minister, Isireli Leweniqila and three others have been charged for being sworn into George Speight's failed administration after the coup.

They are facing a charge of taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise.

The case has been adjourned to the 23rd of July for mention when details of a preliminary inquiry will be decided.

Meanwhile, Fiji's Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase, has issued a statement that the Government will continue to support Ratu Jope Seniloli as Vice President.