28 Jun 2003

Life sentences for Fiji treason convicts

9:10 am on 28 June 2003

Fiji treason convicts, Josefa Nata and Timoci Silatolu, have been sentenced to life imprisonment for their part in the May 2000 coup.

In handing down the sentence, Justice Andrew Wilson, said Silatolu must serve a minimum of nine years of his term and Nata a minimum of seven years.

Justice Wilson said Fiji had experienced too many coups and such insurrections against parliamentary democracy must stop and the rule of law upheld.

He said the two men had committed one of the worst offences a person could commit.

Justice Wilson said Silatolu who was the link man and gave the green light for the coup and betrayed his prime minister, was more actively involved than his accomplice Nata.

He said little seperated them from George Speight since both pursued Speight's cause passionately.

Justice Wilson earlier ruled that the abolition of the death penalty by parliament after Speight's sentence was valid.

Nata and Silatolu were convicted of conspiring to overthrow the lawfully elected government, taking and detaining the government members as hostages by force of arms and purporting to form an illegal administration.

They were also convicted of unlawfully purporting to abrogate the constitution, unlawfully participating in the swearing in of an interim government and of breaching the duty of allegiance they owed to the lawful government.