3 Nov 2004

Fiji Senator and 12 others acquitted on coup related charges

4:30 pm on 3 November 2004

The Nadi magistrate's court has acquitted a Fiji government senator on coup related charges.

Senator Mohammed Apisai Tora and 12 villagers had been charged with illegal assembly in a case which has been going on for three years.

The charge was in relation to an event during which Mr Tora and the others seized a military checkpoint near Nadi Airport and set up a roadblock at the height of the coup.

They were demanding that the Great Council of chiefs appoint Ratu Josefa Iloilo (the current president) as president to succeed Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara who had been ousted.

In an un-sworn statement earlier, Senator Tora said he was not armed during the event and was exercising his constitutional right to assemble and demonstrate.

Senator Tora said he did not have any intention of committing an offence.

Radio Legend reports that in acquitting Mr Tora and the 12 villagers, magistrate Sayed Mukhtar Shah said there was insufficient evidence to convict them.

Mr Shah criticised the police prosecution as unprofessional because they were not able to answer his questions and provide the evidence he needed.