16 Aug 2005

Fiji Appeal Court orders retrial of 20 soldiers

4:39 pm on 16 August 2005

The Fiji Court of Appeal has ruled that the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, did not have the powers to appoint members of the court martial panel which tried a group of 20 soldiers who took part in the November 2000 mutiny.

Radio Legend reports that the Appeal Court has ordered a retrial of the 20 soldiers who were all given custodial sentences after their convictions.

In his ruling on the appeal by the soldiers, the president of the Appeal Court, Justice Gordon Ward, said the soldiers were denied a fair trial as the commander only had the powers to convene a court martial, but not to appoint the panel.

Justice Ward said the appointing powers are vested in the commander-in-chief of the military who is the president.

The Appeal Court has set aside the conviction and sentences of the soldiers and ordered a retrial by a different court martial panel appointed by the commander, after the powers are delegated to him by the president.

The November 2000 mutiny, which was aimed at assassinating Commodore Bainimarama and freeing George Speight, claimed eight lives and resulted in more than 30 injuries including those of civilians hit by bullets flying from the firefight at the military camp.