28 Sep 2005

Jailed Fiji Senator will appeal jailing for illegal assembly

9:40 am on 28 September 2005

The lawyer for the jailed Fiji government senator, Mohammed Apisai Tora, says he will appeal against the conviction and imprisonment.

Lawyer Iqbal Khan says he will file the appeal this week and has already filed an application for Tora to be released on bail.

Mr Khan says he will appeal on the grounds that the sentence is excessive because of Tora's age of 72 and because there was no criminal intent in his actions which Mr Khan claims were politically motivated.

Also, he says, the judge did not have the powers to pass sentence and should have given that responsibility to the Nadi magistrate who had earlier acquitted Tora.

Mr Khan also claims the judge did not take into consideration Fijian customs and traditions according to which Tora's accomplices were simply following his instructions.

The Lautoka High Court judge, Justice John Connors, has jailed Tora for eight months and 12 villagers for 4 months each for illegal assembly after convicting them.

They had seized a military checkpoint and set up a roadblock near Nadi International Airport at the height of the coup.

Justice Connors told Tora that since he was a traditional leader he should be setting a good example to the community but he behaved otherwise in July 2000 and should be held accountable for his actions.