Chief faces coup charges
Fiji's vice president and high traditional chief Jopi Seniloli yesterday appeared in court on charges linked to the 2000 coup in the South Pacific nation, a day after he was arrested amid fears of fresh unrest. Seniloli, who appeared with four others including Cabinet Minister Isireli Lewniqila, faced charges linked to the coup masterminded by convicted traitor George Speight. On May 19 last year, Speight led special forces soldiers into parliament, seizing then premier Mahendra Chaudhry and his government and holding them hostage for 56 days. Seniloli was a key figure in the trial of supporters of Speight. Speight himself pleaded guilty to treason in 2001.
■ The Philippines
Former captive suspicious
Philippine President Gloria Arroyo ordered yesterday an investigation into allegations by a former American hostage that military officials had colluded with the Abu Sayyaf kidnap group. The charges were made in a book by Gracia Burnham, an American missionary who was kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf in 2001 and rescued by Philippine soldiers after more than a year last June. In a speech to a religious group, Arroyo stressed her "unremitting confidence" in the armed forces in its continuing fight to crush the Abu Sayyaf, but stressed a probe into Burnham's claim was necessary.
Queen's man denies rape
The British queen's embattled representative in Australia denied yesterday he had raped a woman in the 1960s, further fuelling the biggest controversy to hit the vice-regal office in three decades. Governor-General Peter Hollingworth -- who is facing calls to resign for mishandling child sex abuse complaints when he was an Anglican archbishop in the 1990s -- said a woman had made the rape claims in a civil case before a Victoria state court. Hollingworth, 68, made no comment on his future as governor-general, the titular head of state in the former British colony who represents the queen and, while the position is largely ceremonial, retains the power to sack an Australian government.
Bali trial to begin Monday
The head of Indonesia's militant Islamic Defenders Front, who tried to sign up volunteers to fight the US in Afghanistan and Iraq, went on trial in Jakarta yesterday for inciting violence and raiding nightclubs. Muhammad Rizieq's trial is one of several high profile cases against militants in the world's most populous Muslim country. Muslim cleric Abu Bakar Bashir, the alleged leader of the violent Southeast Asian Jemaah Islamiah network, is currently on trial for treason. Next Monday, the first trial over last year's deadly Bali bombings that killed more than 200 people will start.
■ The Philippines
Elephant runs amok
An elephant escaped from a pen and ran wild yesterday in the Philippine capital, causing panic among pedestrians and motorists, police said. Investigators said the elephant, which came from Thailand, was part of the Elephant World show in the suburban city of Quezon. A handler was giving the 21-year-old male elephant, named Tool, a bath when it was able to break off its restraints and ran out of the pen, police said. The elephant's Thai trainers were able to chain the agitated animal to a tree in a busy restaurant row, a few kilometers away from the coliseum after a 30-minute chase along the main EDSA highway.