6 Nov 2007

Fiji military boss says plot probe continues, vows to follow due process

4:43 pm on 6 November 2007

Fiji's military commander and interim prime minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, says investigations are continuing into the alleged plot to kill him and other leaders.

At least 16 people have been arrested in connection with the alleged conspiracy since it was first reported at the weekend.

Commodore Bainimarama says a situation was discovered that would have led to serious unrest.

He declined to give details but says matters have to be left to due process.

But in Suva, no one appeared in court this morning and reports say the delay is due to arguments between Police, and the Public Prosecutions over the charges.

The military commander says there was sensational reporting of the police commissioner's comments linking foreign governments to NGO's tied to the alleged plot.

"To our neighbouring countries, particularly Australia and New Zealand, I plea with you again. Please respect our sovereignty as we respect that of yours. Fiji is going through a transitional period, with the purpose of achieving genuine and sustainable democracy. Such democracy is only possible when it's underpinned by stability and when ordinary citizens are not intimidated by acts of terrorism."

Commodore Frank Bainimarama

New Zealand lawyer, Janet Mason, has criticised the sorts of charges being brought following the recent arrests.

Seven people are now facing charges including inciting mutiny, treason and conspiracy to murder.

Ms Mason is seeking a judicial review of the actions of Fiji's interim government since it came to power in last year's coup.

She says these matters are at the heart of any attempts to bring mutiny or treason charges:

If you look at treason you will see it is an attempt to remove a legitimate government by violent means and you've got to ask who is the legitimate government.

New Zealand-based lawyer, Janet Mason

The New Zealand government says a second New Zealand citizen is now known be among those detained in Fiji over the alleged plot.

The New Zealand businessman Ballu Khan remains in hospital after being arrested and reportedly beaten by Fiji's security forces.

The Prime Minister Helen Clark says another family has come forward to the New Zealand High Commission to say a family member has been mistreated in detention.

Miss Clark will not release the person's name, but says he is a New Zealand citizen.

She says it's her understanding he has been injured, and diplomatic staff have not been given access to see him.