24 Jun 2005

Australian lawyer claims Fiji mistreatment over coup role

3:29 pm on 24 June 2005

A top Australian criminal lawyer forced by the Fiji government to leave the country says he's been mistreated because of his work in bringing coup perpetrators to justice.

The former deputy director of public prosecutions, Peter Ridgway, who returned to Fiji to help the prosecutions office with coup-related cases, received a letter from the immigration department saying he had to leave within 24 hours or face imprisonment.

Mr Ridgway says the letter accused him of arriving in Fiji while purporting to be the deputy public prosecutor on a false premise.

He says the department was later forced to apologise.

"It's been a devestating experience to have been treated so badly by people who have every reason to be grateful. We went back to Fiji at the request of the DPP to help them, I even did it at my expense, and my reward was to be villified and pilloried and threatened with imprisonment."

Mr Ridgway, who has had quadruple bypass surgery in the past, says the whole affair has been a huge strain.