17 Jun 2005

Fiji cabinet minister appears in court on coup-related charges

10:14 am on 17 June 2005

Fiji's transport minister, Simione Kaitani, goes on trial today for serious coup related offences.

The trial begins in the Suva High Court this morning just as the government is pushing ahead with legislation which could see coup prosecutions suspended, and those accused or already jailed given amnesty.

Kaitani has been charged with taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence by being sworn in as a purported minister in George Speight's failed administration during the coup.

Three other men - Viliame Sausauwai, Eroni Lewaqai and Levani Tonitonivanua - are standing trial with Kaitani for the same offence.

The prosecution has named a strong line-up of witnesses to give evidence against the accused.

They include the secretary general to parliament, Mary Chapman; the SVT party spokesperson, Ema Druavesi, the secretary to the President's Office at the time of the coup, Joe Brown, Bau high chief, Ratu Tua'kitau Cokanauto and Senator Mitieli Bulanauca.

The case will be heard by Justice Anthony Gates and five assessors.

Fiji's former vice president, Seniloli, and the former deputy speaker of parliament, Vakalabure, as well as three others were jailed last year for the same offence.