9 Feb 2005

Fiji prosecutors casts doubt on Mara removal case

2:47 pm on 9 February 2005

Public prosecutors in Fiji say unless new evidence is presented on the removal from office of the former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, during the 2000 coup, the case can go no further.

The deputy director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Ridgway, says a distinction must be made between duress and pressure.

Critics have been pressing for the prosecution of the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, who led a delegation on board a boat to ask Ratu Mara to step aside.

Also present were a former prime minister, Sitiveni Rabuka, a former police commissioner, Col. Isikia Savua, and Ratu Epeli Ganilau, a former chairman of the Great Council of Chiefs.

Mr Ridgway says there may been bad or politically motivated advice given by the group but to press criminal charges of duress in this situation would have required somebody to have been holding a gun to the president's head.

"Unless new evidence comes to light generally, it doesn't necessarily have to come from within that group but I would have thought that to have any real significance, it would of necessity need to come from within that group - but in the absence of something that is quite revealing, then I can see no prospect of this being usefully taken any further."

Peter Ridgway, Fiji's deputy director of Public Prosecutions.