5 Aug 2004

Fiji vice-president to be sentenced after found guilty in treason trial

7:34 pm on 5 August 2004

Fiji vice president Seniloli is spending tonight in police custody after being found guilty of trying to become the usurper president in the May 2000 coup.

Also in police custody are the deputy speaker of parliament Vakalalabure, Viliame Savu, Viliame Volavola and Peceli Rinakama who joined Speight's failed rebel administration.

Radio Legend says all five men were found guilty on a charge of taking an illegal oath to commit a capital offence, the maximum penalty for which is life imprisonment.

The guilty verdicts were reached by four assessors while the fifth assessor found all the accused not guilty.

The sixth accused, sports minister Leweniqila, was found not guilty by the assessors and Justice Nazhat Shameem acquitted him.

She remanded the five guilty men in police custody until tomorrow morning when she will hear mitigation from their defence lawyers before pronouncing sentence.

Radio Legend says Seniloli's lawyer, Mehboob Raza, described the verdict as "sickening" and said he would seek bail and appeal.

Earlier police had thrown a security cordon around the capital in preparation for the verdict.

The police spokesman, Mesake Koroi, has appealed to the public to remain calm and for good sense to prevail.