Pacific Media Watch
FIJI:
Treason trial to 'establish links' between rebel journalist and politician


Title -- 3857 FIJI: Treason trial to 'establish links' between rebel journalist and politician
Date --26 November 2002
Byline -- None
Origin -- Pacific Media Watch
Source -- Pacnews, 3rd edition, editor@pacnews.org, 26/11/2
Copyright -- Pacnews
Status -- Unabridged


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TREASON TRIAL TO ESTABLISH LINKS BETWEEN SILATOLU AND NATA

SUVA (Pacnews/Pacific Media Watch): The state prosecution in the Fiji treason trial will attempt to establish that the two defendants, politician Ratu Timoci Silatolu and journalist/publicist Jo Nata, knew about the planned overthrow of the Fiji Government in advance, Pacnews reports.

State prosecutor Peter Ridgeway in his opening statement said evidence to be tendered during the trial would include phone records that showed Silatolu and Nata were in constant contact weeks before the coup and "so many times on the night and morning" of 19 May 2000.

"There were more than 80 phone calls exchanged between the two during that period," Ridgeway said.

"Not only that, the two were also in phone contact with George Speight and Iliesa Duvuloco. Duvuloco was leading a civilian march through the city on that day," Ridgeway said.

"Both the men were aware of the coup. They were party to it," he added.

The leading state prosecutor said witnesses to be called would establish that the Silatolu and Nata were part of the "inner circle" of people that were aware of the events leading to the events of 19 May.

Ridgeway explained that treason is an assault on the heart of the state.

This is the first treason trial in Fiji, even though the charges existed in the country' statute books.

"The abrogation of the constitution on its own is an act of treason."

Silatolu and Nata are jointly charged with treason and seven overt acts. These include the appointment of the illegal Taukei Civilian Government and the abrogation of the 1997 Constitution.

One of the key witnesses for the state, former Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry, is expected to take the witness stand on Thursday (28 Nov).

The trial is presided over by Justice Andrew Wilson.


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