29 Nov 2006

Key witness in Fiji's Rabuka trial off to Afghanistan

2:54 pm on 29 November 2006

The Suva High Court has released the main witness in the trial of the former Fiji prime minister and 1987 coup leader, Sitiveni Rabuka, to return to Afghanistan.

Lt Col Seruvakula was the commander of the Third Battalion Fiji Infantry Regiment in 2000 whom Mr Rabuka is alleged to have twice incited to stage a mutiny to remove the military commander, Commodore Frank Bainimarama.

Lt Col Seruvakula, who crushed the mutiny in November 2000, was cross examined yesterday by Mr Rabuka's defence lawyer Peter Maiden, re-examined by the prosecutor Mark Tedeschi and further questioned by the High Court judge, Justice Gerard Winter.

Justice Winter then released Lt Col Seruvakula to return to Afghanistan where he is Field Coordinator for Security for the United Nations.

During the cross examination, Mr Maiden attempted to discredit Lt Col Seruvakula's evidence by saying he had accused Mr Rabuka to try to cover up his own inadequacies in 2000.

But the witness rejected this, saying he had been commended for his role during the May coup and the November mutiny.