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Back To Nukulau Island For Speight's Rebels

6 August 2000

BACK TO NUKULAU ISLAND FOR SPEIGHT'S REBELS

By Matelita Ragogo, of the Fiji Times, who has won an AusAID Pacific Media Initiative scholarship to complete her journalism studies at USP.

--- Coup frontman George Speight and 12 other rebels were yesterday refused bail by the Suva Magistrates' Court and were returned to their Nukulau island "prison" on remand until August 11. Chief Magistrate Salesi Temo rejected the bail application by defence lawyers, saying military arms were still at large. Speight and two former army officers, Ilisoni Ligairi and Jo Savua, were charged with being illegally armed in public and causing terror. All 13 men were jointly charged with:

* Consorting with people carrying firearms and ammunition.

* Unlawful burial.

* Unlawful assembly at Parliament.

* Unlawful assembly at Kalabu Primary School to cause instability in the country.

Media reports say that more serious charges are expected. ----

SUVA: They look tired; a few have not bothered shaving while others obviously don't seem to care how or what they look like anymore.

Coup frontman George Speight sports a new look with some stubble on his usually clean-shaven face and head.

Former Fiji Intelligence Service chief Metuisela Mua, known for his neat outfit had a stubble, his hair was uncombed and with much more grey than the last time we met.

But his eyes still had a sparkle.

Failed 1999 general elections candidate Samu Konataci has a sling - his left arm appeared injured and two of his fingers broken.

They generally look well but the shadowy interior of the court hides bruises which may have been black eyes on media adviser Jo Nata.

The wives are also present.

There is a tender moment when during a one-hour adjournment, husbands and wives meet. A hug or two.

In the meantime, the sound of hymns floats into the courtroom, marred occasionally by sudden screaming and clapping.

Security is tight. There are at least 20 armed soldiers guarding Chief Magistrate Salesi temor's court.

More all around the building and even more military and police presence are at the rear entrance of Government Buildings where supporters have converged.

There is a small commotion when rebel security chief Ilisoni Ligairi's son arrives. Women shake his hands and kiss him all the while.

The few benches in the courtroom are jam-packed with journalists - of all sizes and nationalities.

They have one common interest - to see proceedings completed. The case has been stood down three times before Temo finally makes his ruling.

During a chamber meeting between prosecution, defence counsels and Temo, the prisoners freely meet and speak with friends and security guards.

A new development when they reappear on August 11 is one all will wait for because at this reappearance there will be very interesting submissions from the accused on their assault claims.

Names will be needed, Temo warned when the allegation was first made by defence counsel Rabo Matalevu.

But many who attended the proceedings were impressed with the strong case put up by the defence team.

"Let's put it this way, if it was any other case, they would have been allowed bail," said lawyer Kitione Vuataki after the ruling.

But for now, it is back to the island for them and another six days under the care of the state.

-- Journalism Programme University of the South Pacific PO Box 1168 Suva, Fiji Islands Tel: (679) 212685 Fax: (679) 313238 Email: journ@usp.ac.fj Pacific Journalism Online website: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/ Online courses information: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/courses.html


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