11 Jun 2003

Fiji court to sentence two treason convicts

4:47 am on 11 June 2003

Fiji treason convicts Timoci Silatolu and Josefa Nata are also due to reappear in court today in connection with the sentencing for their role in the May 2000 coup.

Silatolu and Nata were found guilty 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, of unlawfully participating in the swearing in of an interim government and of breaching the duty of allegiance they owed to the lawful government.

At the end of their trial in March, Justice Andrew Wilson said he would have sentenced Nata and Silatolu to death if parliament had not made amendments to the law last year abolishing death for treason.

The law was changed immediately after the coup front man, George Speight, was sentenced to death after pleading guilty to treason and had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.

Justice Wilson said it was not in the interests of justice that one traitor got the death penalty while two others guilty of the same crime committed at the same time get a different sentence.

Today's high court session is expected to rule on the appropriate sentence for Silatolu and Nata