6 Nov 2003

Fiji court rejects plea by accused for an indigenous Fijian judge to hear their case

11:09 am on 6 November 2003

A group of 6 indigenous Fijians charged with serious coup-related offences have had their application for the case to be heard by an indigenous judge rejected.

Fiji TV reports that in the unprecedented application, the accused said they did not want a European or an Indian judge but only an indigenous Fijian.

Their offences occurred at Muaniweni, the area from where hundreds of Indian farmers and their families fled in terror to Fiji's first ever refugee camp at Lautoka.

The magistrates court had earlier acquitted the men on ten charges of robbery with violence, larceny of cattle and crops, and transporting stolen property to parliament to feed George Speight's rebels who were holding the Chaudhry government hostage.

When the director of public prosecutions appealed against the acquittal in the High Court, the men asked for the case to be heard by an indigenous judge.

But Justice Nazhat Shameem rejected the application, saying its implications were less about the impartiality of the tribunal and more about securing a particular judge.

Justice Shameem said there was no room in Fiji to shop for a particular type of judge.