21 Oct 2004

Fiji senator again questions commoners on his trial panel

8:37 am on 21 October 2004

A Fiji government senator charged with serious mutiny related offences has again asked for other high chiefs to be on the panel of assessors which is to hear his case in the Suva High Court.

This is because Ratu Inoke Takiveikata is the paramount chief of Naitasiri province.

Radio Fiji reports that Takiveikata's Australian lawyer, Gabriel Wendler, has told Justice Anthony Gates that his client will get an unfair trial if he is tried by commoners.

Mr Wendler said the assessors should be similar in chiefly status to Takiveikata.

He said this is because they would have a more compassionate understanding of the high chief's predicament.

He said this would result in a fair trial as was his client's constitutional right.

Mr Wendler also produced an affidavit from fellow senator Asesela Ravuvu, who is professor of Pacific studies at the USP, to support his argument.

Senator Ravuvu contends it is taboo for commoners to pass judgment on their high chief.

Today state layers are expected to respond to these arguments and other issues brought up by the defence.

Takiveikata has pleaded not guilty to inciting and aiding soldiers in a mutiny in November 2000 which was aimed at assassinating the army commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and freeing George Speight.

It resulted in eight deaths and more than 30 injuries.