20 Jul 2011

Former Fiji officer to meet NZ ministry officials

12:19 pm on 20 July 2011

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFAT) has confirmed officials will meet dissident Fiji colonel Tevita Mara, at his request.

Colonel Mara arrived in in New Zealand from Sydney overnight on Tuesday for a five-day visit, as part of his regional tour to discuss conditions in Fiji.

He fled Fiji in May aboard a Tongan navy boat and now enjoys the protection of the king of Tonga.

At a media briefing in Auckland, Colonel Mara said he was looking forward to explaining to New Zealand officials the reality of the situation in Fiji.

He will meet officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade but will not meet the minister, Murray McCully. The ministry has declined to go into the details of what will be discussed.

Coalition lays torture complaint

The New Zealand-based Coalition for Democracy in Fiji has filed a criminal complaint about alleged torture with New Zealand police, against Colonel Mara.

The coalition's Nik Naidu says Colonel Mara can be held to account under New Zealand law.

"He's alleged to have tortured people; he also committed treason by helping overthrow democracy in Fiji. And under the NZ Crimes of Torture Act (1989) we've made a complaint to the police in New Zealand to investigate and arrest and/or prosecute him when he arrives in New Zealand on that basis."

There has been no response to this request from police or MFAT.

The group that invited Colonel Mara to New Zealand, the Fiji Democracy and Freedom Movement, says it is important to hear what he has to say.

Fiji wants New Zealand to extradite Colonel Mara back to Suva where he faces charges of sedition and conspiracy.

New Zealand originally agreed to let him in for two days but that has been increased to five.

He is to host public meetings in Auckland and Wellington, including addressing the New Zealand chapters of the Fiji Freedom and Democracy Movement.