25 May 2004

Senior Fiji figures appear in court on coup related charges

8:24 am on 25 May 2004

Fiji's lands minister and leader of the pro-coup Conservative Alliance coalition, Ratu Naigama Lalabalavu, is appearing in Labasa's magistrate's court on coup related charges.

The Fiji Times reports that whn the case opened, charges were also laid against the general secretary of the Conservative Alliance and government senator, Ratu Josefa Dimuri, and two Vanua Levu chiefs, the Tui Wailevu and Tui Nadogo.

All four face charges of illegal assembly at the Labasa military barracks during the coup.

Soldiers based at the barracks staged a mutiny on orders from George Speight's rebels in parliament where the Chaudhry government was held hostage.

All four accused have pleaded not guilty.

Yesterday the court heard evidence from a soldier who described in detail what happened during the mutiny and which chiefs were present, including the four accused.

The trial will continue today.