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I Was Deceived to Sign: Ratu Epeli Tells Lautoka Court

I Was Deceived to Sign: Ratu Epeli Tells Lautoka Court
State lawyer, Lee Burney at the Lautoka High Court on September 5, 2017. Photo: Arieta Vakasukawaqa.
September 06
09:34 2017

The first accused of the Ra sedition trial, Ratu Epeli Niudamu, said in court yesterday he was deceived.

Ratu Epeli, 58, the Tui Nalawa, told the Lautoka High Court he was deceived by the late Tui Navitilevu, Ratu Meli Bolobolo into unknowingly signing a document linked to the planned Ra Sovereign Christian State.

Other accused are Sailasa Malani, Sereima Rokodi, Nanise Kasami Nagusuca, Waisea Duailima, Isikeli Kabakoro, Laisiasa Mocevakaca, Emosi Toga, Waisake Racaca, Samuela Ligabalavu, Mikaele Gonerara, Josefa Natau, Sulueti Waqalala, Ulaiyasi Tuivomo and Apolosi Qalilawa.

Ilisapeci Natau has been acquitted.

All accused persons are charged with two counts each of sedition except Nanise Kasami Nagusuca and Waisea Duailima who are charged with four counts each of sedition.

He added the blank page he signed already had the late Tui Navitilevu’s signature on it which was presented to him by Mereoni Kirwin. She was accompanied by five to six people, the court heard.

In cross examination, State counsel, Lee Burney told the court the previous day, the accused stated that Kirwin was alone and she presented the document.

He added that Ratu Epeli seemed to be changing his testimony.

Mr Burney said the response wasn’t good enough.

Defence lawyer, Kevueli Tunidau said questions asked by the State lawyer were misleading.

Ratu Epeli said the document was about re-establishing the Great Council of Chiefs and safeguarding iTaukei fishing grounds.

However, he was made aware that the document was related to the so-called Ra Sovereign Christian State when he was taken in for questioning by Police in June, 2015.

“From there I knew my signature was used for wrong intentions,” Ratu Epeli said.

Mr Burney then asked Ratu Epeli whether he was aware that he had the right not to answer questions during the caution interview with police.

Ratu Epeli told the court that he didn’t know until the matter was produced in court.

“What I told Police was nothing but the truth and I voluntarily answered those questions,” Ratu Epeli said.

He said he disagreed with the idea to form the so-called Ra Sovereign Christian State because it was unlawful and that a Government was already in place.

Ratu Epeli added that some chiefs within the 20 districts of Ra didn’t agree with the idea.

Mr Burney then asked Ratu Epeli if the late Tui Navitilevu at one point had ever lied to him.

He said that the late Tui Navitilevu had lied to him on several occasions because they were cousins veitavaleni.

Ratu Epeli also said he was maternally related to the late Tui Navitilevu.

But, Mr Burney told the accused that the caution interview report stated that Ratu Epeli told the Police he didn’t have time to read the document when it was presented to him by Mereoni Kirwin.

Ratu Epeli said all he remembered was that he was given a blank paper to sign.

Mr Burney told the court that it seemed that he lied about signing a blank page with the late Tui Navitilevu signature on it.

“I am not telling a lie, this is the truth,” Ratu Epeli responded.

Defence lawyer Kevueli Tunidau told the court that Mr Burney tried to seek speculative answers.The trial continues today where an international law expert will take the stand as defence witness.

Edited by Mohammed Ali

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