16 May 2003

Fiji court acquits rebel soldier over coup shooting

3:23 pm on 16 May 2003

The Suva magistrate's court has acquitted one of the rebel soldiers who seized parliament in the May 2000 Fiji Coup of shooting a loyalist officer.

The incident occurred at a military checkpoint close to parliament manned by loyal troops at the height of their stand-off with the rebels.

Radio Fiji reports that Sergeant Filimoni Tikotani had been charged with intent to cause grievous bodily harm when he fired his weapon at Lt Asaeria Rokoura, injuring him.

Magistrate Aminiasi Katonivualiku said after two days of trial with 15 state witnesses, the prosecution had failed to prove that Tikotani had actually fired the shot that injured Lt Rokoura.

He acquitted the accused of the shooting, but Tikotani still faces another charge of going armed in public in the civillian courts and a military court martial for mutiny.

Meanwhile, the court martial of another group of 61 soldiers charged with taking part in the take over of parliament has been deferred further.

This is because the judge advocate in the court martial, Justice Sarvadanand Sadal, is currently engaged in another court martial of soldiers involved in the Suva army mutiny.