21 Oct 2004

Strong objections to request for Fiji senator's mutiny related trial to be heard by other chiefs

5:37 pm on 21 October 2004

Prosecution lawyers in Fiji have raised strong objections to a government senator's request to have his mutiny-related trial heard by other high chiefs.

Local radio reports say Daniel Howard has told the Suva High Court that the application to have a panel of high chiefs as assessors has no merit and should not be entertained.

Mr Howard said accommodating Ratu Inoke Takiveikata's request for a trial by peers would open the floodgates to similar requests from minority groups such as homosexuals or disabled persons.

He said the current assessor system already promotes fair trails because it involves a judge who can override their opinion and there is provision for appeal.

Mr Howard said the assessors represent members of the community and there should not be a group from only a section of the community to pass a verdict on an accused.

As well, he said, Takiveikata's lawyer Gabriel Wendler had told the court his client was closely related to other chiefly households whose members therefore could not be expected to produce a fair trial.

Mr Howard said the charges against Takiveikata do not require the assessment of cultural or ethnic issues because the case is based on his statements and actions in relation to the November 2000 mutiny.