Saturday, February 03, 2007

Military Assault on Church in Fiji

A FIJI Times photographer was detained at the military camps in Nabua for about an hour yesterday afternoon. Sitiveni Moce was on an assignment at the Centenary Church in Suva when soldiers in full combat gear attacked him.

According to an eyewitness at about 3pm seven soldiers in full combat gear jumped out of a rental twin-cab pick-up truck and ran inside the church towards the back where the offices are located.
After about seven minutes they came out of the church with a gentleman believed to be in his late fifties or early sixties, it is still unclear at this moment who this individual is.

It was at this moment that the witness saw Siti crossing the road to get a better picture before someone in the crowd that had gathered shouted in a joking manner that the soldiers also take Siti in as he was taking pictures. "But the soldiers took this seriously. Then one of the soldiers ran across the road and confronted Siti. He (soldier) tried to take out the roll of film but I could tell he did not know how to do it," said the witness. "By this time a second soldier arrived at where Siti and the first soldier was standing and tried to take Siti's knapsack.

The soldiers began shouting at Siti who was just a few centimtres away and they took him by the collar of his shirt and dragged him across the road to where the truck was parked. He was punched twice on the face by one of the soldiers and his nose started bleeding before he was hauled onto the back of the truck and forced to lie down before he was kicked on the side of his face by one of his soldiers.

According to the eye witness, Siti was writing in pain as the truck drove away towards Stewart Street. Siti is currently under examination at the hospital after being released from the camp. He suffered some injuries in the attack.
Fiji Times editor Samisoni Kakaivalu has condemned the attack on the newspaper's photographer saying that it was most unfortunate that those who are expected to protect the nation have engaged in these kinds of attacks on people going about their daily job. The Fiji Times deplores this unwarranted attack by the military. The commander and his senior spokesmen have given several assurances that Fiji's media can go about their business in their normal way, without interference," said Mr Kakaivalu. "Today we have seen that either that is not the case, or not all the military understand these assurances."
Efforts to get a comment from the military on the attack and detainment have been unsuccessful, as calls made to military spokesman Major Neumi Leweni's mobile were not answered.

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