24 May 2004

Fiji vice president Seniloli faces additional coup-related charge

2:48 pm on 24 May 2004

State prosecutors in Fiji have introduced a new charge against the vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, who tried to usurp the presidency during the coup while Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara still held office.

He is currently charged with taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise.

Radio Legend reports that state prosecutors have charged Ratu Jope with a third offence in pretrial hearings today.

The charge is the taking of an engagement in the nature of an oath, in case the first two charges fail.

The new charge has also been laid against the deputy speaker of parliament, Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, the sports minister, Isireli Leweniqila, and three others who face the first two charges for purporting to be sworn in as ministers in George Speight's failed administration.

Defence lawyers are appealing for time to prepare a defence against the new charge.

But the prosecutors say the new charge will not introduce new evidence.

The judge, Justice Nazhat Shameem, has also raised concerns about one of the defence lawyers, Kitione Vuetaki, because his name has been mentioned in statements by the accused and also in the Nata and Silatolu treason trial last year.

Justice Shameem will be rule on Mr Vuetaki's status later.

The High Court trial for the vice president and the five others is scheduled to begin on June the 15th