1 Mar 2005

Fiji Court Martial proceeds despite lawyers absense

7:15 pm on 1 March 2005

The court martial of a Fiji soldier charged for offences related to the Speight coup has proceeded despite his lawyer failing to appear.

Radio Fiji reports that lawyer Vodo Tuberi did not appear because his certificate to practise law had expired.

The military prosecution said they had to recall the commander of Third Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment at the time of the coup, Lt Col Viliame Seruvakula, from a course in the United States to give evidence and his return was imminent.

The judge advocate, Sarvada-nand Sadal, ruled that the court martial should proceed because he would assist the accused.

Corporal Lagilagi Vosabeci is facing a charge of wrongful confinement of the Chaudhry government, mutiny and misprision of treason, which means that he had prior knowledge that a coup would take pace but failed to inform the authorities.

Lt Col Seruvakula told the court martial that Vosabeci had been an army intelligence operative since 1999 but went into parliament the day the coup took place.

He said he did now know what Vosabeci did inside parliament.

Lt Col Seruvakula, who had refused a cash offer of 155-thousand US dollars to take his troops to support the coup, said he had received four pages of information about the Labour Party from Vosabeci but no other documents.

The court martial is continuing.