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FIJI: I was just PR consultant: Joe Nata

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SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): Former Fiji journalist and journalism trainer Josefa Nata is pleading not guilty to treason, saying he was simply asked to be a public relations consultant, the Daily Post reports.

Nata and politician Ratu Timoci Silatolu were the only two of 13 people charged with treason over coup leader George Speight's storming of Parliament on 19 May 2000 who pleaded not guilty.

They have asked for a trial, pleading not guilty to charges of treason in the High Court in Suva.

The start of their trial has been set for March 11. Speight has a life sentence while 10 others have been given sentences ranging between 18 months and three years.

Director of Legal Aid Makereta Waqavonovono has written to the Deputy Public Prosecutor's Office to request that the prosecution against Nata be withdrawn.

Legal Aid Commission lawyers are representing Nata.

Nata is former coordinator of the Fiji Journalism Institute, a training body run by the Fiji Islands Media Association (FIMA) until it closed in 1999 amid allegations over funding.

He is adamant that he was not responsible for acts of treason.

Nata maintains he was only called into Parliament after George Speight and his rebels had taken the Mahendra Chaudhry-led government hostage. The captive cabinet was held hostage for 56 days.

Ms Waqavonovono said Nata's involvement was minimal in that he was requested to act as a public relations consultant for the group at the height of the takeover.



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