13 Nov 2002

Fiji lawyer hopes for suspended sentences for landowners

6:19 pm on 13 November 2002

The Fiji lawyer for the Monasavu indigenous landowners is hoping they receive suspended sentences after they pleaded guilty to illegal possession of firearms and setting up a roadblock.

Sevuloni Valenitabua says the landowners were brutally assaulted by the military after they were arrested two years ago following their takeover of the Monasavu dam.

He says one landowner was hospitalised for three months and another was kicked and stomped by soldiers.

Mr Valenitabua says he won't lay a complaint with the military at this point but hopes that the magistrate will take that and the length of the court case into consideration.

"They have been coming to court for the past two tears, so I have represented to the court, that that is one other mitigating factor. Apart from the brutalities, they have been coming to court for the past two years, no trial, and they should just be released and sent home, maybe on a suspended sentence."

Sentencing will take place on November 22nd.

The landowners seized weapons from soldiers guarding the Monasavu dam, set up a road block and caused extensive power blackouts in the country for two months.