1 May 2006

High Court in Fiji to question former vice president over community sentence

6:27 am on 1 May 2006

The Suva High Court has ruled that the release of Fiji's former vice president, Ratu Jope Seniloli, from prison on a Compulsory Supervision Order, after just three months of his four-year sentence for usurping the presidency, reeks of bias.

The Fiji Times reports that Justice Jiten Singh has ordered Seniloli to appear before him to defend himself.

It follows an application from the Citizens Constitutional Forum's for a court order seeking to quash the minister of justice, Qoriniasi Bale's decision to release Seniloli on a Compulsory Supervision Order or CSO in late 2004.

Seniloli was convicted of taking an unlawful oath to commit a capital offence by attempting to become the president during the coup while the lawful holder of the presidency, Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara, was still in office.

The CCF challenged the release on the grounds of bias or perceived bias, saying it was tantamount to interference with the powers of the judiciary.

The CCF further argued that the release just three months after the jailing made a mockery of the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary.

The CCF tabled a document Mr Bale sent to the prime minister on August 12, 2004 in

which he discussed the possibility of Seniloli being released on a CSO in exchange for his resignation as vice president.

Seniloli has been summoned to appear before the High Court on the 17th of this month.