15 Aug 2005

Fiji Cabinet Minister not guilty of coup related offence

9:08 pm on 15 August 2005

Fiji's transport minister, Simione Kaitani, has been found not guilty of a serious coup related offence which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

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

The five assessors in the case had found all four not guilty when they delivered their opinion last Friday.

Radio Legend reports that today Justice Anthony Gates upheld their opinion and acquitted all the four accused, saying they were not guilty.

Justice Gates said the prosecution had not presented credible witnesses in its evidence against the accused.

A fifth accused charged with the same offence, former MP Antonio Tanaburenisau, had pleaded guilty to taking an illegal oath to join Speight's administration at the start of the trial when their plea was taken.

Justice Gates will now sentence Tanaburenisau.