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Defence counsels maintain article not seditious in closing submissions

May 15, 2018 5:20 am

The defence counsels in the Fiji Times sedition trial today have maintained that the letter written by Josaia Waqabaca was not seditious and that he was only practicing his freedom of expression.

Waqabaca, Fiji Times Limited publisher Hank Arts, Editor Fred Wesley and Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula are charged with sedition and aiding and abetting.

Waqabaca and Arts have pleaded not guilty to sedition, while Fred Wesley and Anare Ravula have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting sedition.

It is alleged that the Fiji Times printed the Nai Lalakai newspaper which contained an article which had content with seditious intention to promote feelings of ill will and hostility amongst the population of Fiji, particularly Muslims and Non-Muslims.

Fiji Times lawyer, Wylie Clarke says Waqabaca was only seeking national reconciliation and suggesting ways to address the concerns.

Clarke adds that the prosecution has not presented any evidence that Arts and Wesley authorized the publication of the letter in question.

He says there is no evidence that the Fiji Times Board knew of the letter and if the board didn’t know than the company cannot be guilty of publishing the article.

Clarke says that Fiji Times has a system in place to ensure that they do not breach any law.

The counsel for the Fiji Times publisher and Editor in Chief Fred Wesley, Marc Corlett in his closing submission today said his clients were not aware of the letter in question and they should be acquitted of the charges.

He says his clients were not aware of the letter given by Waqabaca to Ravula.
Corlett says prosecution’s case has collapsed.

He says his clients had nothing to do with the letter.

Earlier today, Waqabaca’s lawyer Aman Ravindra Singh said the prosecution failed to produce any evidence that the letter written by writer Josaia Waqabaca created any ill feelings or ill-will among the Muslim and non-Muslims in the country.

Singh said between 20th and 25th April in 2016 Josaia Waqabaca dropped a letter to the Fiji Times office in Suva and the same letter was given to the Attorney General’s office.

He said Waqabaca was expressing his concern on issues affecting the i-Taukei community – mainly the land.

He adds the same letter found its way in the Nai Lalakai and was published on April 27th.

Singh said two months later Permanent Secretary for i-Taukei Affairs, Naipote Katonitabua, ‘wakes up’, reads the letter and feels it was seditious and reports the matter to police

Singh said the original recipient of the letter who was Attorney General had no issue with it.

He also said that if he would than he would have lodged a complaint.

Meanwhile, Ravula’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma said police were lazy and did not carry out full investigation after the complaint was lodged.

Sharma also said that none of the readers of Nai Lalakai complained about the article or took it to the Media Industry Development Authority.

He also said there has been no complaint or feedback on the letter until now.
Sharma said there is no evidence of any disturbance to the tranquility of the state.

He said that Waqabaca was only seeking national reconciliation or a peaceful dialogue.

Sharma said the letter was not seditious so the charges of sedition drops.

He said there is no evidence that the article had incited its readers.

The prosecution is currently presenting their closing submissions.