27 May 2004

Defence lawyer thrown out of Fiji coup trial

10:23 am on 27 May 2004

The High Court in Fiji's capital, Suva, has ordered a lawyer, defending the deputy speaker of parliament on serious coup related charges, out of the trial.

Kitione Vuetaki was defending Ratu Rakuita Vakalalabure, and another accused, on a charge of taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence, for being sworn in as ministers in George Speight's failed administration.

But Justice Nazhat Shameem has told Mr Vuetaki that he cannot represent his clients because he's been named as a witness in the trial of the sports minister, Isireli Leweniqila, who's also charged with same offence.

Radio Fiji says Justice Shameem has ordered the media not to report details of the case before it starts on June the fifteenth.

Fiji's vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, is also charged with the same offence for trying to become the usurper president, while Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara still held office.

The offences carry a maximum of life imprisonment, if the accused are found guilty.

Australia has sent the most senior prosecutor in New South Wales, Mark Tedeschi QC, to conduct the prosecution free of charge.