23 Sep 2013

Lawyer for Fijian sentenced to prison says trial in absentia unfair

4:41 am on 23 September 2013

The lawyer for a Fijian woman sentenced to 26 months in prison says the trial in absentia was unfair, and New Zealand needs to clarify its position on Fiji.

Foana Nemani was sentenced on Friday in the Fiji High Court after being found guilty earlier in the week for extortion and abuse of authority.

The former deputy general manager of Fiji's pension fund paid herself and her CEO allowances in 2006.

Nemani travelled to New Zealand in 2011 and did not return to Fiji.

The lawyer for Nemani, Heeni Phillips, says it was odd to have the trial in her client's absence.

"I would have thought there were compelling public policy reasons why a trial should not proceed in the absence of an accused person, it's very disappointing. And I just think that the New Zealand Government needs to clarify clearly its position in relation to Fiji."

Heeni Phillips says she is clarifying with the Foreign Ministry, but is assured her client is safe from extradition requests.