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Accused Coup Plotter Defended By State Lawyer

Accused Coup Plotter To Be Defended By State Lawyer
LINK - Wansolwara Online
By KELERA MUAVESI and IMRAN ALI: August 28, 2002

Wansolwara Online

SUVA (Pacific Media Watch): Accused Fiji coup plotter Ratu Timoci Silatolu - who faces treason charges along with a journalist - will be provided with a defence lawyer by the state, the High Court was told today.

But the decision will be appealed by the Attorney General's office, further delaying the treason trial, which is now expected to resume mid November, or even early next year.

Legal Aid Commission's Nehla Baswaiya told High Court Judge Justice Andrew Wilson of the legal arrangement.

Silatolu, a former member of Parliament, has been charged with treason over his alleged role in the overthrow of the Mahendra Chaudhry-led Labour coalition government in May 2000.

The other accused is former journalist Jo Nata.

Coup frontman George Speight pleaded guilty to treason and is serving a life sentence.

Although lawyer Saveloni Valenitabua has been engaged to defend Silatolu, he did not attend today's hearing because of illness.

Baswaiya informed the court Valenitabua was discharged from hospital this afternoon and needed at least a month to prepare his case.

The court was adjourned for five minutes on the request of the director for Fiji Human Rights Commission, Dr Shaista Shameem, who said she needed time to brief Silatolu on the latest development.

There was lengthy deliberation by all parties on when the trial proper should start because of the intention of the Attorney General's office to appeal the ruling.

"In the overall interest of justice, not only to the two accused but also for justice to the country and its people, I think it's essential the trial proper commences after the appeal," Justice Wilson said.

The judge said he was likely to set a trial starting date between November 19 and 26 or early next year.



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