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Witnesses Blast Military Over Court Martial


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Witnesses Blast Military Over Court Martial 'Treatment' http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/wansolnews/wansol2708012.html

By ANISH CHAND: August 27, 2001 Wansolwara Online (USP)

SUVA (Pasifik Nius): The Fiji Military Forces came under fire today at the court martial hearing for 15 former soldiers charged with mutiny.

Witnesses summoned by the RFMF to the opening day of the case criticised the army over the "second class" treatment they received outside the hearing venue at Vatuwaqa, outside Suva.

Most of the witnesses present today were reporters from Fiji's three media outlets and one civilian who was inside army headquarters at Nabua at the time of the attempted mutiny on November 2 last year.

Fiji Television reporter Imraz Iqbal was unhappy at how he was treated when he arrived at the hearing venue.

"I was told to wait outside the gate by soldiers. Little did I realise that I will have to wait for more than two hours in the scorching sun and see the army officers enjoying tea inside," Iqbal told Wansolwara Online.

"This is being discourteous to the witnesses who are being treated as second class people," he said.

"This is just not on and I am having second thoughts on being a witness for the army if this is how we are going to be treated."

Other reporters who have been summoned as witnesses are Sakiusa Bolaira of Fiji TV, Virisila Buadromo of FM96 and Trevor Whippy, a cameraman from Fiji TV.

Asked for comment by Wansolwara Online, spokesman Captain Ned Taito said the military would make a statement about the criticisms later.

After a brief hearing, the court martial was adjourned to September 10.

Justice Sarvadanand Sadal, who is judge advocate, also delayed making a decision on whether the trial will be open to the public.

The army's director of legal services Major Mohammed Aziz, appeared for the prosecution team, while the 15 soldiers had their respective lawyers present during the brief hearing.

Colonel Ilaisa Kacisolomone is the president of the court martial.

The 15 soldiers, members of the now disbanded Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit, are alleged to have tried to take over the army barracks in a surprise attack at the headquarters in Nabua.

They are alleged to have killed three soldiers during the siege.

* THE CITIZENS CONSTITUTIONAL FORUM tonight called for the court martial to be an open hearing, saying important human rights issues were involved.

Spokesman Ponipate Ravula said the forum was "mindful of the issues of national security" that might prevent public access to the hearing.

"However, the military should be very clear on its legal grounds should it decide to refuse public access," he said.

+++niuswire

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