28 May 2004

Fiji trial hears minister consorted with mutineers

3:27 pm on 28 May 2004

A coup related trial in Fiji has been told that the lands minister, Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, was among chiefs and civilians meeting with mutinous soldiers at the Labasa military barracks during the 2000 insurrection.

The Fiji Times says this was part of the evidence given by state witness, Corporal Antonio Kasiraki, in the trial of Ratu Naiqama, government senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri, and two Vanua Levu chiefs, the Tui Wailevu and Tui Nagodo.

The four have been charged with illegal assembly for their part in the mutiny by soldiers at Labasa on orders from rebels in parliament during the coup.

Corporal Kasiraki has told the Labasa magistrate's court that chiefs and civilians met with the mutinous soldiers in the Officers' Mess.

When he refused to join the mutineers and chose to remain with the loyal soldiers, the mutineers' leader, Lt Vosayaco, fired an automatic weapon and had him placed under arrest.

Corporal Kasiraki says rebel soldiers were firing at loyalists as they tried to flee through the main gate.

The trial is continuing.