18 Jan 2005

Fiji lands minister seeks disqualification of trial magistrate

10:39 am on 18 January 2005

Fiji's lands minister wants the magistrate hearing his Labasa army mutiny related case to be disqualified from continuing.

Radio Fiji reports that the charge of illegal assembly against Ratu Naiqama Lalabalavu, government senator Ratu Josefa Dimuri and two Vanua Levu chiefs, is due to resume next Tuesday.

But Ratu Naiqama has filed an application in the Suva High court to disqualify magistrate Sunil Kumar.

That application will also be heard in chambers next Tuesday.

The application has been backed by the affidavit of a former Labasa school teacher who claims the magistrate told him at a kava drinking session that he would ensure that the four accused pay for their crime.

Radio Fiji says the progress of the trial now hinges on the application to disqualify the magistrate and Ratu Naiqama's constitutional redress case in which he claims his constitutional rights to a speedy trial are being breached.

The case has been repeatedly adjourned over the last three years.