9 Aug 2005

Fiji transport minister to stand trial for 2000 coup role

3:42 pm on 9 August 2005

The Suva High Court has ruled that Fiji's transport minister, Simione Kaitani, and three others have a case on answer on serious coup related charges.

Kaitani, Lepani Tonitonivavua, Eroni Lewaqi and Viliame Sausauwai have been charged with taking illegal oaths to join George Speight's failed administration as ministers during the coup.

Radio Legend reports that in their summing up defence lawyers had argued that the four had no case to answer because the prosecution had produced no evidence to prove that the accused had taken oaths.

But Justice Anthony Gates has ruled that there is sufficient evidence for the trial to go ahead.

Justice Gates told the accused that they could either make sworn statements in court on which they could be cross-examined or they could make un-sworn statements on which they would not be asked questions.

Kaitani chose to make an unworn statement in which he denied the charge against him.

Kaitani also said the New Zealand handwriting expert brought in by the prosecution could not verify beyond reasonable doubt that the signature on the oath was his.

Tonitonivavua, Lewaqai and Sausauwai also made un-sworn statements denying the charges against them and asked why the coup convicts Ratu Jope Seniloli and Josefa Nata, who were present at the swearing in, were not brought before the court to give evidence.