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Regime Under Attack For Releasing Terrorists

Issue No: 269 8 December 2000

The regime has come under heavy criticism from the people of Fiji for the release of 4 terrorists this week. The four - Metuesela Mua, Tevita Bukarau, Eroni Lewaqai and Viliame Sausauwai - had treason charges dropped and were released on $50 bail each on Wednesday. The Magistrate's court gave the prosecution's office 7 days to file fresh charges against them for lesser offences.

Included in the critics are the military, political parties, businessmen, trade unions, and ngo's.

The military gave a strong statement saying: "The lessons learned form the release of the CRW persons who were involved in the May 19 coup and subsequently involved in the November 2 mutiny attempt has strengthened our resolve to not to allow these kinds of things to happen again". The reference was to the release of 8 terrorists belonging to the army's Counter Revolutionary Warfare Unit by the prosecution, and later by the military from military custody. The 8 were involved with the Nov. 2 attempted mutiny and coup.

The release has sent a security scare in Fiji since under the court's disclosure rules, the statements made by the hostages and others to the police have been made available to the terrorists. While the military has stated that it will ensure that the 4 abide by the bail conditions, the serious possibility of the terrorists organising violence can not be ruled out.

The release, coming in an environment of rumours of further violence and instability, seem to provide credence to the rumours.

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The People's Coalition has also criticised the decision, and questioned the expertise of the peoples involved in the investigations and prosecutions. The National Federation Party has also criticised the decision. The SVT has remained silent.

The Fiji-Australia Business Council also criticised the decision. Its president, Mark Halabe told today's Daily Post that the international community could not believe that not enough evidence was found to suggest the 4 were involved in the insurrection. "These people", he stated, "were regularly seen on TV and to say that they were not involved is disbelief".

The Fiji Trades Union Congress also questioned the reason behind the release of the 4, saying it "erodes the confidence of the people in the prosecution and the court".

The prosecution, the police and the courts have now become the subject of joke in Fiji, following the release of numerous terrorists on suspended sentences, minor fines, charges being dropped, the reinstatement of Isikia Savua. A letter writer in today's Fiji Sun Sireli Koroivuki wrote: "Speight himself will ultimately be cleared due to lack of evidence".

Other critics include the Citizen's Constitutional Forum, the Fiji Youth and Students League, and the women's movement.

Meanwhile, the police have finally charged terrorist Simione Drole with treason and the magistrate's court has remanded him in custody.

END 8 December 2000

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