2 Jul 2004

Mutiny court martial of group of Fiji soldiers complete

10:44 am on 2 July 2004

The court martial of a second group of 21 Fiji soldiers charged with the November 2000 mutiny has been completed.

The mutiny was aimed at assassinating the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and freeing George Speight, and was carried out by the now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit, which had earlier carried out the Speight coup.

The Fiji Times reports that in the closing stages one of the defence lawyers, Vodo Tuberi, questioned the independence of the panel hearing the court martial, saying they were paid by the army.

But the president of the court martial, Colonel Matareti Sarasau, rejected this - saying they were paid by the state - and not the commander.

Another defence lawyer argued that the accused soldiers were only obeying orders during the mutiny because they were trained to follow instructions first and ask questions later.

He said an example of illegal orders was when members of the same unit carried out surveillance and gathered intelligence on the life of the deposed deputy prime minister, Adi Kuini Speed.

The judge advocate, Sarvadanand Sadal, will sum up the case on July the 13th and give his verdict on July the 16th.