Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Qarase free to travel to Suva


Monday June 11, 2007

Ousted PM Laisenia Qarase
Deposed Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase is free to travel the High Court in Suva heard this morning.

Qarase who is contesting the overthrow of his government by the military in December last year has been in exile in his village in the Lau Group for six months now.

He has not attended previous sessions of his litigation against military commander and interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama due to concerns that he would be detained under the Public Emergency Regulation if he came to Suva.

Despite assurances by the authorities, the presiding judge-acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates today said while he acknowledges that the emergency regulations have been lifted, "unfortunately in Fiji it happens too often that when restraints are lifted, it is still enforced by ill-informed officers or individuals with extra zeal."

He said it was in the interest of justice that Qarase have access to Suva and that it was his individual right.

Qarase’s lawyer Tevita Fa said although the emergency regulations have been lifted last month, they seek an order from the High Court that will allow Qarase to travel to Suva.

The Military’s lawyer Chris Pryde said that there is "absolutely no restraint on Qarase’s movements to Suva or anywhere in Fiji."

He also said there is no evidence that point to Qarase ever being put in exile "apart from a few newspaper articles."

"I am rather surprised that Mr Qarase is not in court this morning," Pryde said.

He said if Qarase is in his island in Lau, then "it is his own choice that he chooses not to come to court."

Justice Gates in his decision upheld Fa’s concerns.

The pre-trial will continue on June 22.

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