12 Jun 2003

Fiji defence lawyers argue against death penalty for two men convicted of treason

4:46 am on 12 June 2003

The Suva High Court has heard legal arguments that Fiji treason convicts Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu should not be sentenced to death for their part in the May 2000 coup.

Radio Fiji reports that the arguments were presented by Nata's state-provided lawyer, Prem Narayan.

Ms Narayan argued that the death penalty is cruel and inhuman punishment and therefore unconstitutional under Fiji law.

The director of the Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, presented similar arguments, adding that the death penalty was against international norms and it was not possible to restore it.

But the deputy director of prosecutions, Peter Ridgeway, maintained that death was the appropriate penalty for treason.

The issue arose after Nata and Silatolu were founf guilty of the same treason offence to which the coup front man, George Speight, had pleaded guilty early last year.

Speight was sentenced to death but the sentence was commuted to life imprisonment immediately afterwards and the government removed the death penalty for treason from the law.