23 Jul 2009

Fiji charges leaders over church meeting

7:02 pm on 23 July 2009

Police in Fiji have charged the high chief of the province of Rewa and two senior Methodist Church ministers with defying the Public Emergency Regulations.

The Methodist Church is the largest Christian denomination in Fiji.

For the past couple of months, interim Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama has been telling the church it will not be allowed to hold its annual gathering in August, or any other meetings, unless it follows strict conditions.

These include that the church exclude two of its former presidents from meetings and that it agrees to remove any political discussion from the agenda.

High chief Ro Kepa has been charged with inciting the people of her home province Rewa with a letter on the internet, which invited the church for its conference after interim regime banned the gathering.

Church president the Rev Ame Tugaue and secretary-general the Rev Tuikilakila Waqairatu have also been charged.

Police say they contravened orders by organising a meeting last week with two church figures that the interim regime wants to have expelled from the Methodists' leadership.

All three have been released on bail and are due back in court in three weeks to enter a plea.

Story posted on You Tube

The family of Ro Kepa has taken the unusual step of posting her story as a video on the You Tube website.

In the video, a woman who says she is a spokesperson for the family, says Ro Kepa was taken to the Queen Elizabeth barracks and has been denied a lawyer.

She says Ro Kepa has refused to accept any meals for about two days.

The family say that due to media censorship in Fiji, they will use You Tube to voice their concern about the situation in the Pacific Island nation.