23 Oct 2004

Fiji senator's bid for all-high-chief jury heard in private

7:20 am on 23 October 2004

Legal arguments about a Fiji government senator's application to have his mutiny related trial judged by a panel of high chiefs are now being heard behind closed doors.

Ratu Inoke Takiveikata's Australian lawyer, Gabriel Wendler, has asked the Suva High Court to consider cultural and ethnic issues because he claimed that in Fijian culture chiefs could not be tried by commoners.

The request has been strongly opposed by the state prosecutors who say the charges are not about cultural factors but what Takiveikata did to incite and aid in a mutiny which claimed eight lives.

The Fiji Democratic Party says any panel of high chiefs would have far reaching implications on the constitutional rights of the common people and could even disenfranchise them.

Justice Anthony Gates has asked the media not to report on the arguments, adding that this was at Mr Wendler's request.