11 Aug 2005

Fiji minister's fate with assessors

9:06 am on 11 August 2005

The High Court trial of Fiji's transport minister, Simione Kaitani, and three others on serious coup related charges has ended with their fate now in the hands of the five assessors.

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

State prosecutor Ashisna Prasad ended her case by saying that evidence produced by Senator Mitieli Bulanauca, who had also taken an illegal oath but turned state witness in return for immunity from prosecution, proved the guilt of the accused.

Ms Prasad said none of the accused had denied taking the oaths in their police interviews when given the opportunity to do so, although Mr Kaitani was evasive.

Defence lawyers Rabo Matebalavu and Iqbal Khan told the court that none of the state witnesses gave direct evidence to prove that the accused were guilty.

Mr Khan said Senator Bulanauca's evidence should be disregarded as he was blackmailed to give turn state witness.

Justice Anthony Gates will sum up the case tomorrow before the assessors are asked to give their verdict.