13 Oct 2004

Fiji prosecutor concerned by attempt to delay mutiny trial

10:33 am on 13 October 2004

The chief prosecutor in a Fiji government senator's trial on serious charges related to the November 2000 army mutiny has expressed concern at another application to delay it.

The Fiji Sun reports that Senior Counsel Daniel Howard from the New South Wales Prosecution Service has told the Suva High Court that it should proceed with the trial on Monday if Ratu Inoke Takiveikata's Australian lawyer does not turn up.

Senator Takiveitaka yesterday applied for the trial to be delayed until Monday because his Australian lawyer, Gabriel Wendeller, would not leave for Fiji until his 60-thousand US dollar payment had been finalised.

The court was told that a loan from a financing company had been arranged after the Native Lands Commission agreed to guarantee it because Ratu Inoke, as paramount chief of Naitasiri, was entitled to more than 60-thousand US dollars a year in land rent income.

The senator's local lawyer, Apaitia Seru, told Justice Anthony Gates that he also had not been paid and would not be able to handle the case if Mr Wendeller did not come from Australia.

Mr Howard said the prosecution had serious concerns about Mr Wendeller's commitment of time to the trial because he had not been candid about other engagements in his diary.

Justice Gates will make a ruling on the delay application today.

The senator has been charged with conspiracy to incite mutiny, inciting mutiny and aiding in a mutiny which claimed eight lives and caused more than 30 injuries.

It was aimed at assassinating the army commander, Commodore Bainimarama, and freeing George Speight.