Thu, Nov 08, 2007 - Page 5 News List

Fiji prosecutors claim mutineers planned to kill leaders

HEARING The prosecutor said he was not prepared to argue against bail applications so the judge gave him an extra day

AP , SUVA

A Fiji court delayed ruling on bail applications yesterday for 10 men accused of plotting to assassinate the South Pacific nation's military chief, as defense lawyers said no evidence of the alleged conspiracy had been put forward by prosecutors.

Each of the men faces five counts of conspiring to commit murder and one charge of inciting mutiny. Treason charges against the 10 were withdrawn by prosecutors on Tuesday.

The men, including former senior soldiers and former lawmakers, allegedly conspired to incite military officers to mutiny against armed forces commander and prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Prosecutors told the court the plotters had conspired to kill Bainimarama, his deputy in the army, Colonel Samuela Saumatua, senior officer Lieutenant Colonel Sitiveni Qiliho, Fiji Finance Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed Khaiyum.

Defense lawyers told the court no evidence had been produced against the accused since they were arrested five days ago.

"In order to properly rebut the men's right to apply for bail, prosecution must provide the evidential burden," Filimoni Vosarogo, head of Fiji's Legal Aid Commission, told the court.

Prosecutor Wilisoni Kurisaqila said he was unprepared to argue against the bail applications.

Suva Magistrate John Semisi delayed a ruling until today.

Among those charged were former land forces commander Colonel Jone Baledrokadroka and the former Intelligence Service director, Colonel Metuisela Mua.

Five others were members of the now-disbanded elite Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit that staged a November 2000 mutiny against Bainimarama in which eight troops were killed. He escaped death by climbing out a rear window of the officers' mess and fleeing into the jungle.

Naitasiri region paramount chief and former Senator Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, former lawmaker Peceli Rinakama and businessman Sivaniolo Naulago, a New Zealand national, are civilians also facing the charges.

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