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Judge Overturns Speight Move

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SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The Fiji High Court has ruled that a judicial order authorising the release of accused terrorists George Speight and Ratu Timoci Silatolu from their prison isle of Nukulau to nominate as candidates in next month's general election was invalid, local news media reported today.

But the ruling came too late to prevent detainees Speight and Silatolu from registering at the Commissioner Central's office in the airport township of Nausori on nomination day yesterday.

Arriving under tight security, both said they were not at liberty to talk.

The Daily Post reported that Speight murmured through clenched teeth that he was going to make a come back.

"I will come back," he said.

Earlier in the day, Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo ruled in favour of the detainees' application to personally file their nominations. They face charges of treason over their leadership role in the attempted coup on May 19 last year.

"People who want to contest the election under the 1997 constitution should be encouraged to do so, that is democracy," magistrate Temo said, the Sun reported.

"To deny Speight the opportunity to contest the election is to encourage the demise of democracy in Fiji."

He said the constitution provided the presumption of innocence until proven guilty in court.

The Fiji Times reported that the High Court ruling later on an appeal by state prosecutors prevented Speight and Silatolu returning to Suva today for the objection period for their nomination as candidates in Tailevu and Rewa.

Justice Peter Surman ruled that the Magistrates Court had no jurisdiction to make orders for the release of the accused rebels who face treason charges in the High Court.

Two other rebel accused, Iliesa Duvuloco and Maciu Naisogobulitabua, had a similar application rejected yesterday by magistrate Temo who conceded he did not have jurisdiction to release them.

Both Speight and Silatolu were escorted separately to Nausori under heavy guard and were given an hour to complete their nomination forms.

The brief release of the detainees and their candidature has sparked widespread criticism.

+++niuswire

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