5 Aug 2004

Ruling in Fiji's Seniloli trial imminent

3:24 pm on 5 August 2004

The five assessors hearing the coup related trial of Fiji vice president Seniloli and five others are due to deliver their verdict this afternoon.

Radio Fiji reports that in her summing up, Justice Nazhat Shameem told the assessors that the trial has not been about whether the six men committed treason.

She said it was about whether, to a reasonable onlooker, the men took an engagement in the nature of an oath to be part of a rebel government, or to try and usurp power from the later former president, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Justice Shameem said setting up a government to replace the captive Chaudhry government or trying to be president when Ratu Mara still had executive control of the country amounted to treason.

She told the assessors that if they believed beyond a reasonable doubt the men took oaths to form a new government to replace the captive government or be a new president to usurp power from Ratu Mara, then they should be found guilty as charged.

If not, then the assessors should return with a NOT guilty opinion.

In the trial which began in late June, the prosecution produced ten witnesses including the hostage prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

The accused made un-sworn statements in their defence saying their swearing in was a charade in which they took oaths to protect Mr Chaudhry and other hostages.