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Immunity Decree case decided

PEOPLES COALITION GOVERNMENT, FIJI

Issue No: 76; 2 October 2000

Immunity Decree case decided

The Immunity Decree is tied to the Muanikau Accord.

This was contained in the judgment of Justice Peter Surnam today when he decided on the appeal against the Magistrate's Court acquittal of ex-soldier Isoa Raceva Karawa on charges of attempted murder and carrying firearms unlawfully.

Karawa had shot at a foreign journalist and two soldiers on 27 May when a Speight group mob went on a rampage outside the Parliament Complex.

Chief Magistrate, Salesi Temo had set Karawa free on grounds that the Immunity Decree was valid and Karawa was covered under it.

Justice Surnam said that the Immunity Decree was not valid because all the conditions of the Muanikau Accord were not fulfilled. The Muanikau Accord required the terrorists to hand over all arms to the military. The terrorists did not hand over all arms; numerous arms are still in civilian hands.

Justice Surnam stated that the Immunity Decree was founded on the Muanikau Accord and as such, the failure to abide by all the conditions of the Muanikau Accord meant that the Immunity Decree was legally invalid. Justice Surnam has directed the Magistrates Court to re-hear the Karawa case.

Justice Surnam also criticised Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo for not allowing prosecution time to make a full submission. In another case earlier, Temo was found to have not declared that he was related to another terrorist when he presided over a case involving him and others of the Speight Group. Only on petition from the prosecution did he disqualify himself from hearing the case.

The High Court judgment has been hailed by the Peoples Coalition. The decision has significant bearing on the case of treason against George Speight and his band of terrorists. Speight's lawyers argue that there is no case against Speight because he is covered by the Immunity Decree.

END

2 October 2000.


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