29 Jun 2004

Fiji's Chaudhry forced to witness usurper president being sworn in

10:30 am on 29 June 2004

The Suva High Court has been told that the former prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, was forced to witness the swearing in of Ratu Jope Seniloli as a usurper president.

Mr Chaudhry was also forced to witness Seniloli then swearing in the coup front man, George Speight, as prime minister.

Fiji TV says this was part of the evidence given on the first day of the trial of Seniloli and five others on serious coup related charges.

Mr Chaudhry said when armed and masked gunmen stormed parliament on the morning of May the nineteenth, 2000, they told MPs from his government that if they tried to escape they would be shot.

Mr Chaudhry said when he refused to leave his chair he was handcuffed and dragged across the floor.

Seniloli, who arrived in court in a vice presidential motorcade and was not subjected to security checks, has pleaded not guilty to charges against him.

These include a charge if taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence and another of engaging in a seditious enterprise for purporting to become the usurper president, while the late Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara was still in office.

Five other men, including the deputy speaker of parliament and the sports minister, face the same charges for being sworn in as ministers in Speight's rebel administration.