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Fiji Times sedition trial to sum up on Friday

May 15, 2018 7:22 pm

The Suva High Court will sum up the Fiji Times Sedition trial on Friday.

This is after the prosecution and the Defence counsels submitted their closing submissions in court yesterday.

Prosecution lawyer, Lee Burney in his submission said each of the accused is responsible for the dissemination of information published in the Nai Lalakai on April 27th, 2016.

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

Burney said Editor in Chief Fred Wesley must have known about the letter as he had access to the system and was briefed about it from Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula.

Burney adds there was also plenty of time for Wesley to go through the article and he had a keen interest in what was being published.

He said Wesley’s task was to guide editors and he knew the risk involved.

The prosecution lawyer said publisher Hank Arts and Wesley could have prevented the seditious article from being published and that they’re both handsomely paid.

He stated they both provided a platform for writer Josaia Waqabaca’s letter to be published.

In the case of Editor, Anare Ravula, prosecution lawyer Burney said it was ironic that nothing has been said in his favour by Arts or Wesley and that he has been thrown under the bus.

He said Ravula is not solely responsible for the matter and has shared the blame.

He adds freedom of speech is important but should be exercised responsibly and the rights of all Fijians should be protected.

The need to stand up against any seditious intention that could signal out any ill-feelings or hostility among Fijians was also highlighted.

Meanwhile, in his closing submission during the trial yesterday, Defence counsel Aman Singh said the prosecution failed to produce any evidence that a letter published in Nai Lalakai created any feeling of ill-will among the Muslims and non-Muslims in the country.

The writer of the letter, Josaia Waqabaca, along with Fiji Times Limited publisher Hank Arts, Editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula are charged with sedition and aiding and abetting.

Waqabaca’s lawyer Aman Singh said that between 20th and 25th of April 2016, Waqabaca dropped a letter to the Fiji Times office in Suva and a second copy to the Attorney General’s office.

Singh said Waqabaca was expressing his concern on issues affecting the i-Taukei community – mainly the land. He added the same letter found its way into 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 feeling it was seditious reported it to police

He noted the original recipient of the letter – the Attorney General – expressed no issue with it.

Nai Lalakai Editor Anare Ravula’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma said the police were lazy and did not conduct a full investigation after the complaint was lodged.

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

Fiji Times lawyer Wylie Clarke said the prosecution hasn’t presented any evidence that Arts and Wesley authorized publication of the letter.

Marc Corlette, the lawyer for Arts and Wesley, said his clients were not aware of the letter in question and they should be acquitted.