Police and soldiers in Fiji charged over 2012 assault
: Fiji's DPP lays charges against police and soldiers over the assault of a recaptured prisoner uploaded to the internet nearly three years ago.
Fiji's director of public prosecutions has charged three police officers and two military personnel for the beating of a man which was shown in a video leaked online.
The video showed Iowane Benedito and another man handcuffed and being beaten by police officers in November 2012 after they were recaptured following their escape from prison.
The video received worldwide condemnation as our reporter Alex Perrottet told Don Wiseman.
ALEX PERROTTET: We had a video uploaded to the internet which was very quickly disseminated throughout Fiji and overseas, and it quickly drew the ire of the powers that be in New Zealand.
There were comments in parliament condemning what was seen in the video. It was certainly confronting for anyone to watch. We had colleagues at Radio New Zealand who didn't want to watch it after viewing it for a few minutes. Those that did saw a number of men being beaten - one in particular who has since been named at Iowane Benedito who was an escaped prisoner. There was footage of the severe beating of the man. There was the setting of a dog, a police dog or some other dog, on the man, which was very vicious, as well as a sexual assault clearly evident in the video as well. What was telling was that many of the men, the perpetrators, could be readily identified - their faces were there and visible. So certainly the reaction after it was uploaded on line was that, if there was going to be some action taken against these people it shouldn't too hard to round up the perpetrators.
DON WISEMAN: Yet that didn't happen?
AP: That's right. There were certainly comments from the police that this would be investigated, but very quickly the reaction from Fiji politicians was against those voices condemning the video. We had the Foreign Minister, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola saying it was out of line for people in New Zealand to be commenting on an internal issue in Fiji, and we had the Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama, who had basically defended the security personnel, outlined the danger to society the escapees were and saying that it is these security personnel that keep people safe in Fiji - that was the main thing - against all the world wide condemnation of this video, he talked down the role of NGOs, that he said were being paid to say negative things about Fiji. There was certainly no condemnation of what had happened in that footage.
DW: So now there have been charges brought, so what can you tell us about that?
AP: We have been talking with the Police Commissioner in Fiji in the last few weeks. In a couple of weeks time, or even sooner, he is due to go to Costa Rica where there is the United Nations Convention Against Torture - they are having a meeting - and he told us a week ago that it certainly would be a good idea if the Department of Public Prosecutions which has the power to lay charges - he put pressure on the DPP to basically come up with a decision before he left to go to Costa Rica, as it would be very helpful to show the world that Fiji was taking action against its own. There have been several police brutality cases. There was a person who died in custody last year and I think earlier this year 8 policemen were charged in relation to that. They want to show that progress is being made and who knows, this decision by the Department of Public Prosecutions may have been a reaction to that pressure.
DW: What are the charges that have been brought against these five men?
AP: Well the Director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pride that there is four men being held in custody and they have been charged with unlawfully and indecently assaulting Mr Benedito and they will appear in the Suva Magistrates Court on Thursday.
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