20 Oct 2004

Court martial of 58 Fijian soldiers begins in Suva

11:15 am on 20 October 2004

The court martial of 58 Fiji soldiers charged for their role in the Speight coup will begin in Suva today.

Radio Fiji reports that 11 of the 58 soldiers are expected to plead guilty to a joint charge of mutiny when the three charges are read out.

With a guilty plea, the soldiers will face a maximum of life in prison.

All the soldiers face a joint charge of mutiny, wrongful confinement (of the Chaudhry government), and misprision of treason.

The military prosecutor, Anil Singh, says once the 11 have pleaded guilty to mutiny, the other charges against them will be dropped.

Details of what happened in parliament during the coup and how the Chaudhry government was held hostage will unfold as state witnesses give evidence in the court martial.

Among the witnesses will be the former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, the suspended director of immigration, Joe Browne, the leader of Speight's gunmen, Ilisoni Ligairi, and the chief executive of the Fiji Rugby Union, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva.