9 Jun 2004

Lawyers for Fijians charged with coup related crimes seek trial delay

10:39 am on 9 June 2004

Lawyers for four of the six people accused of serious coup related crimes in Fiji have made a fresh attempt to delay the trial which is scheduled to begin next Tuesday.

All six have been charged with taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise for being sworn in to Speight's failed administration immediately after the coup.

They are Fiji's vice-president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, the deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, the sports minister, Isireli Leweniqila, nationalists Viliame Savu and Peceli Rinakama, and former army officer, Col Viliame Volavola.

In pre-trial proceedings, lawyers for Vakalalabure, Leweniqila, Rinakama and Savu said they were new to the case and needed to be briefed and make themselves familiar with the charges.

Some also argued that the trial should be put off until August or September because they had commitments in other courts.

But lawyers for the prosecution strongly opposed the arguments saying the charges are simple and defence counsel should be able to brief themselves before the trial on the 15th of this month.

They also said trial in the High Court take precedence over those in the magistrate's courts.

Justice Nazhat Shameem will give her ruling by Friday.