1 Mar 2016

Fiji cops plead not guilty in Soko rape case

3:24 pm on 1 March 2016

Eight suspended Fiji policemen and a military officer have pleaded not guilty to rape charges in relation to the death in police custody of Vilikesa Soko in 2014.

Two of the suspects, Manasa Talala and Viliami Vereivalu, also pleaded not guilty to charges of defeating the course of justice by instructing other police officers to make false statements.

All the accused were suspended on full pay last month after being reinstated by the acting police commissioner, Brigadier General Sitiveni Qiliho.

He suspended them after the director of Public Prosecutions, Christopher Pryde, expressed concern at their presence within the police force, saying it represented a real risk of interference with investigations.

After their earlier reinstatement, Manasa Talala and Viliami Vereivalu were involved with the investigation into the former deputy police commissioner, Henry Brown, who resigned in January amid an internal inquiry into alleged but unspecified wrongdoing.

The case has been adjourned until 18 April, with a trial expected to go ahead in September.

The military officer, Pita Matairavula, who worked as the prime minister's bodyguard, is facing separate charges of sexual assault over a videotaped incident in 2013.