17 Jun 2005

Fiji denies report that Australian prosecutor was ordered to leave

1:10 pm on 17 June 2005

The Fiji government is denying claims that the Prime Minister has ordered an Australian criminal prosecutor central to coup investigations to leave the country.

The former deputy public prosecutor, Peter Ridgway - who won convictions for treason against key perpetrators of the 2000 coup - has reportedly been given two weeks to quit the country.

Mr Ridgway's contract expired last month but he returned to Fiji on Monday expecting to serve a short term contract to help out the DPP's office, which has opposed the government's Reconciliation and Unity Bill.

He says while he's aware there were bureaucratic problems with his contract, he suspects it was not renewed for political reasons.

The Attorney General, Qoriniasi Bale, rejects this.

"What Peter Ridgway may have said is not only completely untrue, but it's completely unfair and its unbecoming of an officer who aspires to hold a high public office in Fiji not to have his contract extended. And I consider that in complete bad taste."

Mr Bale says the government does not oppose anyone who questions their Reconciliation and Unity Bill.