17 Oct 2016

No charges for detained prominent Fijians

3:51 pm on 17 October 2016

Fiji's DPP has decided there's no evidence to charge six prominent Fijians detained and questioned over a meeting last month.

A group of people wait to hear about the detainees yesterday, as Attar Singh's lawyer Raman Singh ( white shirt )  receives a call.

Family and friends of the detainees were waiting outside the police station in Suva for much of the weekend. Photo: RNZI / Alex Perrottet

Jone Dakuvula, Sitiveni Rabuka, Mahendra Chaudhry, Biman Prasad, Tupeni Baba, and Attar Singh were arrested and detained on the 10th and 11th of September on suspicion of having breached the Public Order Act.

Mr Dakuvula's NGO Pacific Dialogue held the meeting to discuss the constitution on Fiji's Constitution Day.

Christopher Pryde said it was clear there was no intention to attend the meeting in breach of the Act, which says a permit from the police is required.

He also criticised the Fiji police for taking five days after the event to take the men in for questioning, and said the police should not have been so selective in who they chose to detain and question.

Mr Pryde said Jone Dakuvula was the only one responsible to seek a permit, and he should have done so, but said the Public Order Act didn't provide an offence for failing to apply for a permit.

However he said the arrest and detention was lawful and justified.

The leader of Fiji's National Federation Party Biman Prasad said it was blatant political persecution.

"The way in which we were arrested from our homes, in front of our families, and on top of that, locked up in a cell for a night, in our view was unnecessary. It did send a very chilling effect on our supporters and indeed the people of this country."

The leader of the Fiji National Federation Party, Biman Prasad.

The leader of the Fiji National Federation Party, Biman Prasad. Photo: RNZ / Sally Round

Attar Singh says he noted that Mr Pryde criticised the way police handled the situation.

"These are very, very serious and I would like to think that the authorities, and in particular the police commissioner will take cognisance of that. The people who were arrested were all supposedly high profile individuals and all other persons who attended were not even interviewed."

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