Charge of treason likely for Fiji rebel

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The Independent Online

The likelihood of the Fijian coup leader, George Speight, standing trial for holding hostage Mahendra Chaudhry's deposed government, increased yesterday after the authorities made clear they would not honour a coup amnesty.

The likelihood of the Fijian coup leader, George Speight, standing trial for holding hostage Mahendra Chaudhry's deposed government, increased yesterday after the authorities made clear they would not honour a coup amnesty.

As Mr Speight appeared in court in Suva for the first time since being arrested on relatively minor charges 10 days ago, prosecutors argued he had nullified the amnesty by failing to give up all his weapons, one of the conditions of the deal.

Mr Speight, whose armed raid on Fiji's parliament on 19 May led to a hostage stand-off lasting two months, was brought by boat to the capital from the prison island of Nukulau, along with 12 close aides. He pleaded not guilty to five firearms and public order charges.

At the high-security hearing, the prosecutors signalled their intention to charge him with the capital offence of treason, saying the immunity that had been granted his group by the military no longer stood.

Salesi Temo, the chief magistrate, remanded Mr Speight and his aides for a further hearing on 1 September, agreeing they should be detained "to protect society at large".

In court yesterday was Mr Speight's security chief, Colonel Ilisoni Ligairi, his head bandaged. Mr Speight has claimed he and seven of his lieutenants were beaten by the military.

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