Speight and his hostage win seats in election

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The Independent Online

George Speight, the Fijian coup leader in prison charged with treason, has been elected to Parliament, and so has Mahendra Chaudhry, the former prime minister he deposed and held hostage for 56 days.

Mr Speight was able to stand in the national elections designed to restore democracy to the South Pacific nation because he has not been convicted of a crime. But if he remains in prison and is unable to attend two consecutive parliamentary sittings, he will be disqualified.

Mr Speight, a candidate for the Conservative Alliance, an extreme nationalist party, was said to be jubilant in his cell on Nukulau Island. His brother, Sam, said: "There was much celebration down there."

Although one-third of votes remain to be counted in the week-long election, which ended on Sunday, Fiji appears even more polarised than at the election in 1999. Moderate parties have gained no seats. Mr Chaudhry's Labour Party is attracting all the Indian votes, and the nationalist parties those of indigenous Fijians.

Mr Speight claimed to be acting for downtrodden indigenous Fijians when he marched into Parliament with guns in May last year and took hostage Mr Chaudhry, Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister, and his government. By coincidence, Mr Speight appeared in court in the capital, Suva, yesterday on charges relating to the occupation of the compound.