19 Feb 2004

Revelations in Fiji mutiny trial of planned theft of a truckload of guns

4:51 pm on 19 February 2004

The court martial of a second group of Fiji soldiers charged with the November 2000 mutiny has been told of plans to drive a vehicle full of weapons out of the army camp.

A military witness, Staff Sergeant Sitiveni Mata, told the tribunal that he found out about the plans when he answered the cell phone of one of the mutineers, Coporal Lagi Vosabeci, who he had detained during the uprising.

Sergeant Mata said he pretended to be the owner of the cell phone and the voice at the other end asked whether a truck full of weapons was ready to leave the camp.

He testified that the voice at the other end said a man named Naulu was waiting for the weapons outsidethe camp.

Sergeant Mata said he was lucky to be alive because during the battle "K-2 rifles were singing and M-16 assault weapons were talking" as a bullet missed him by inches and others left many holes in the wall around him.

He said after he apprehended, Corporal Vosabeci, he was so angry he seized a pistol which dropped from Vosabeci's pocket and fired at his head.

But Vosabeci survived because the magazine was empty.

Sergeant Mata said Vosabeci also told him under questioning that he was following orders from Captain Shane Stevens, the leader of the mutineers who was convicted last year and is now serving a jail sentence.

The mutiny, which claimed eight lives, was aimed at assassinating the military commander Commander Frank Bainimarama.