8 Jun 2007

Fiji villagers allege physical abuse by soldiers

10:00 am on 8 June 2007

A group of villagers in Fiji claim that soldiers searching for evidence of illegal marijuana cultivation and use took them away at night to a spot where they were forced to crawl on thorny bushes for hours.

The Fiji Sun reports that the incident happened at Naqia village in Tailevu on Tuesday last week, three days before the Public Emergency regulations were lifted.

The villagers also claim that the soldiers tried take away the wives of men they could not find.

They say the women were ordered on to a truck and released only when their children came crying after them.

One of the villagers, Lekima Koro, says the soldiers also took away his wife because he was not at home but she was released when he went and presented himself to the soldiers.

He says at Nayavu Bridge they were told to crawl on their elbows down to the river bank and around thorny bushes, and were kicked while doing so.

Mr Koro says their treatment over two days shocked and traumatized their families.

The military spokesman, Major Neumi Leweni, says the soldiers were helping police round up suspects as part of a joint operation.