4 Oct 2010

Former Fiji PM on bail after court appearance

6:31 pm on 4 October 2010

Former Fiji prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry is on bail after appearing in court charged with breaching the country's public emergency regulations. Five other men are similarly charged.

Mr Chaudhry's lawyer, Peter Williams QC, says his client was arrested on Friday while assessing the impact of the drought on sugar-cane farmers in Rakiraki.

Emergency regulations state that no meeting can be held without the approval of the authorities.

Mr Williams says Mr Chaudhry denies being at a meeting - he was merely talking to farmers in his role as a public figure, politician and leading trade unionist.

Another member of the former PM's legal team, his son Rajendra Chaudhry, says that after his father's bail was set, the magistrate, Feizal Koya, recused himself from the case because one of the accused is known to him.

A plea by police for Mr Chaudhry and his associates to surrender their travel documents was dismissed.

The six men are due to appear in court again on Wednesday.

The news editor of Fiji Communications, Vijay Narayan, says a new judge will be appointed to hear the case.