Thursday, March 19, 2009

No amnesty for soldiers

No amnesty for soldiers

www.fijisun.com.fj - 3/19/2009
The eight soldiers and a policeman jailed over the death of 19-year-old Sakiusa Rabaka are not covered under the immunity promulgation.
This was revealed by prosecution lawyer Wilisoni Kurisaqila. In an interview, Mr Kurisaqila said that the issue of amnesty had been raised before the case went to trial but he strongly objected to it. He said this is because the amnesty period was from December 6, 2006 to January 5, 2007.
Mr Kurisaqila said the incident in which Sakiusa Rabaka and four other complainants were assaulted by the soldiers and a policeman occurred on January 28, 2007 and that this date does not fall in the period of amnesty. When contacted yesterday defence lawyer Haroon Ali Shah said the issue of amnesty for the nine convicted men was never used as a defence strategy.
Mr Shah said the issue was not raised by him as a defence tactic for his clients’ case because ‘it was not part of the plan’. “It was never part of the plan to raise the issue of amnesty as a defence strategy. Even if we had the chance to plead amnesty, we would not have raised the issue because I wanted a fair trial since the charges were serious,” he said.

“We could have pleaded amnesty or even alert the judge’s mind to the possibility that the men could be protected under the amnesty period but like I said, I wanted a fair trial to take place and everyone’s had their day in court.”
Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum refused to hear queries on the matter and instead referred all questions to his public relations officer Sharila Lazarus. Fiji Law Society president Dorsami Naidu said people who had been assaulted by soldiers during the amnesty period still has a right to report or lodge a formal complaint with police. “I think they should and time will not be an obstacle because of the circumstances. And I believe the police should act because they are duty bound to assist members of the public who have such complaints because the rule of law and Constitution are still valid,” he said. Mr Naidu said in such cases, the issue of being protected under the amnesty period would be challengeable in court. “The validity of amnesty is challengeable in court because there are factors like, who issued the amnesty and was it properly done, that need to be determined,” he said.
Meanwhile, Mr Shah confirmed that he has filed an appeal at the Lautoka High Court yesterday.
Police man Patrick Nayacalagilagi along with soldiers Taione Lua, Ulaiasi Radike, Etonia Nadura, Ratunaisa Toutou, Joeli Lesavua, Jona Nareki, Ilaisa Kurimavua and Napolioni Naulia were each sentenced to four years on a lesser charge of manslaughter and four months imprisonment for each of the five counts of common assault they were convicted of.

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