13 Dec 2004

Fiji soldiers on coup charges say they were misled by army major who marched them into parliament.

8:32 pm on 13 December 2004

The court martial of a group of Fiji soldiers charged for their role in the May 2000 coup has been told that they were influenced by an army major, Josefa Savua.

Some of the soldiers have pleaded guilty to a charge of mutiny in return for having charges of misprision of treason and wrongful confinement of the Chaudhry government dropped.

Radio Legend reports that lawyers mitigating for these soldiers have told the court martial that their clients were misled by Major Savua who marched them into parliament in support of the coup.

They said they went in to back up soldiers from the now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit who had carried out the coup and were already in parliament.

Their army lawyer, Major Tikoduadua, said his clients were highly skilled engineers and one of them even had a university degree.

The soldiers have already been in custody for four years and asked for suspended sentences.

Their sentences will be delivered on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Mr Savua was the pro-coup Conservative Alliance party's candidate in the weekend by-election for the North East Fijian Urban Constituency, which was won by the SDL party.