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Military Controls Movement Of Suspect Colonels

USP Pacific Journalism Online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/
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* See earlier reports online: http://www.usp.ac.fj/journ/docs/news/nius3092shoot.html

Staff Reporters USP's Pacific Journalism Online

SUVA: News media have reported two senior Fiji military officers are under house arrest but one, a high-flying colonel, denies this and the military have now said the men are held under "restricted movement".

The Daily Post today said Lieutenant Colonel Filipo Tarakinikini, who gained a high international profile as the military spokesman after the May coup, and Colonel Ulaiasi Vatu were "reportedly under house arrest".

But military spokesman Major Howard Politini told the Fiji Sun: "The actual fact is that their movements have been restricted. In other words, all their movements are monitored by the military."

According to the Fiji Times, Major Politini said the movements of the officers were being monitored because of allegations against them after the May 19 coup by failed businessman George Speight.

He emphasised that the action was part of ongoing investigations "and nobody is charged with anything at this point".

Colonel Tarakinikini denied on Fiji Television last night that he was being held under house arrest.

"If I am under house arrest, I want to see it in writing," he said.

"I am a senior officer. I must be treated fairly like anybody else.

"I now understand what it is like when you are not guilty and you are suspected, and you feel like you're being crucified. I now understand how unfair it is."

News media have been barred from today's Magistrates Court preliminary hearing of treason charges against Speight and 14 of his alleged ringleaders on the prison isle of Nukulau off the coast of Suva.

The hearing, scheduled for the court on Monday, was deferred to a special court hearing on the island because of security fears after last Thursday's mutiny which claimed the lives of eight soldiers.

Meanwhile, the first sitting of Fiji's Court of Appeal since the May coup and the abrogation by the military of the 1997 multiracial constitution began yesterday with a declaration of the court's independence.

New Zealand judge Sir Maurice Casey said the court hearing was "not to be taken as accepting or endorsing the legality of official acts that have occurred since it last sat".

Before the first case was called, Sir Maurice declared that the court was "sitting to help maintain the rule of law in Fiji".

"In doing so, we are not to be taken as accepting or endorsing the legality of the official acts that have occurred since it last sat. Nor should this statement be interpreted as a repudiation of the legality of such acts," he said.

Sir Maurice said those were "questions which may possibly arise for the decision of this court on some future occasion".

"If that were to happen, this court would need to hear full argument in open court before coming to any conclusion," he said.

The four-week session will include Australian judge Ken Hendley and Papua New Guinea's Deputy Chief Justice Sir Mari Kapi.

Fiji's Court of Appeal President Jai Ram Reddy resigned shortly after the military declared martial law on May 29 and seized control of the country.

The Fiji Sun reported that a post mortem after the death of prison escapee Alifereti Nimacere, who was shot by soldiers while being captured as part of the manhunt for rebels after the mutiny, had been completed and "police confirmed that foul play is suspected".

Police spokesperson Inspector Sera Bernhard was quoted by the newspaper as saying the report was with the Criminal Investigations Department acting director Emosi Vunisa for further investigation.

The Fiji Times reported that tension over the brutal killing of soldiers during the mutiny had forced police to engage a foreign pathologist.

Police confirmed that Monash University's Dr Stephen Cordner was engaged because of "pressure from the government pathologist".

CID acting director Vunisa said emotions were running high over news media stories about the alleged brutal manner some of the soldiers died.

Families were demanding the presence of lawyers and private doctors during autopsy examinations, he said.

+++niuswire


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