16 Sep 2004

Fiji coup court martial president puts off trial

9:32 am on 16 September 2004

The court martial of 60 Fiji soldiers charged with taking part in the May 2000 coup has been unable to get under way again.

The latest postponement has been forced because some of the accused did not have legal representation.

Ten of the soldiers who did not have lawyers were refused representation by the Legal Aid director Makareta Waqavonovono on the grounds that the commission did not have the resources.

Ms Waqavovovono also argued that changes in law brought about in Britain to allow for an independent authority to convene a court martial rather than the military commander should apply in Fiji.

It was also argued that soldiers were unable to pay for their defence because the military had stopped their salaries.

The soldiers who took part in the coup have been charged with mutiny, misprision of treason and unlawful confinement (of the Chaudhry government).

The president of the court martial, Colonel Ilaisa Kacisolomone, postponed the trial for two weeks saying all the accused need legal representation.