8 Mar 2004

Fiji court orders villagers' retrial

2:27 pm on 8 March 2004

Suva's High Court has set aside the acquittal of nine villagers charged with terrorism during the Fiji coup.

The court has ordered their retrial under a new magistrate.

The Fiji Times reports that all nine were charged with robbery with violence, wounding with intent and larceny of root crops and cattle in Muaniweni.

Several hundred people reportedly fled for their lives because of anti-Indian violence during the coup.

The state lodged an appeal against their acquittal with the deputy director of public prosecutions, Peter Ridgeway, saying that the magistrate's court proceedings were flawed and biased.

Justice Nazhat Shameem says court records showed that some of the magistrate's findings were not based on court evidence.

She says the pre-disposition of the magistrate to acquit the accused because of erroneous findings nullified the entire trial.

Justice Shameem ordered a new trial before another magistrate.