Thursday, June 16, 2011

Illegal Fiji Regime Demands Canberra Allows Extradition

Sydney Morning Herald - 15 June 2011


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Fiji's military regime has issued a terse warning to Australia to allow the extradition of a fugitive former colonel who escaped its shores last month.
Lieutenant Colonel Ratu Tevita Mara, an ally-turned-foe of Fiji's controversial regime, fled to Tonga in May after being charged with plotting to overthrow the government which has been in power since a 2006 coup.
He travelled to Australia last week to appear at a pro-democracy rally in Queanbeyan on Saturday as part of regional campaign to oust his former boss, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, and return the nation to democracy.
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Fiji's government, angry that Tonga ignored extradition requests and allowed Mara to leave with Tongan citizenship, has now shifted its focus to Canberra.
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Fiji's minister of foreign affairs, Ratu Inoke Kubuabola threatened that: "Australia's action in welcoming a fugitive from Fiji risks an escalation of tensions in Fiji-Australia relations, which Australia must take responsibility for".
In a statement, the regime's attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Bainimarama's right-hand man, said he sent extradition papers to Australia which were "signed for" on Monday morning.
"The ball is now in Australia's court to follow due legal process in having Ratu Tevita brought back to Fiji," the statement said.
Sayed-Khaiyum said his government planned to file for Ratu Tevita's extradition "in every country he visits".
Mara, who was instrumental in the 2006 coup and an integral part of the regime until he was charged with sedition, says he lost faith in the leadership when it became clear Bainimarama and Sayed-Khaiyum had no plans to hold elections in 2014 as promised.
He used YouTube to issue stinging accusations of corruption, greed and violence against dissenters, all claims the leaders have rejected.
Mara has announced plans to take his pro-democracy message on tour to New Zealand and other Pacific nations, as well as the United States.
The matter has clearly upset Bainimarama, who has dismissed Mara as "a little kid who doesn't know what is happening around him".
The regime has refused to respond to media requests but has issued a string of strongly-worded press statements accusing Australia and New Zealand of bullying.

by Tamara McLean, AAP South Pacific Correspondent

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