29 Jun 2004

Fiji's vice president pleads not guilty to treason-related charges

10:29 am on 29 June 2004

Fiji's Vice-President has pleaded not guilty to treason-related charges linked to the 2000 coup.

Ratu Jope Seniloli and five others, including the sports minister and deputy parliamentary speaker, have denied charges of taking oaths to commit treason, which carries a maximum term of life imprisonment.

During the coup, Ratu Jope was sworn in as president, and is alleged to have been involved in swearing in four of the accused, as ministers.

In May 2000, the then prime-minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government were held hostage for 56 days.

Mr Chaudhry was the star witness on the opening day of the High Court hearing yesterday.

He said on the first day of the coup he was asked to quit as prime minister, and attend the swearing in of Seniloli.

The state chief prosecutor, Mark Tedeschi told the court the six defendants were not forced into accepting an invitation by Speight to be his civilian rebel government ministers.

Mr Tedeschi said others were offered the same positions but they refused.