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High Court Judge Dismisses Defence Objections In Fiji Times case

High Court Judge Dismisses Defence Objections In Fiji Times case
Fiji Times, Nailalakai Editor (from left), Anare Ravula, Editor-In-Chief Fred Wesley and Publisher Hank Arts Photo: RONALD KUMAR.
November 30
09:40 2017

The High Court in Suva yesterday dismissed objections raised by Fiji Times Limited lawyer Feizal Haniff in relation to amended information tendered by the state prosecution.

Accused Nai Lalakai article writer Josaia Waqabaca, Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula, Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley and Fiji Times publisher Hank Arts appeared before judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe charged alongside the newspaper company which was represented by Mr Haniff.

Waqabaca had previously pleaded not guilty while Ravula, Wesley, Arts and the company yesterday delivered their not guilty plea to the charges of sedition and aiding and abetting sedition.

It is alleged that Ravula on or about April 27, 2016, in his capacity as the editor of the Nai Lalakai newspaper aided and abetted Arts to publish an article which contained a statement which was a seditious publication.

It is alleged that Wesley in his capacity as the editor-in-chief of the Nai Lalakai newspaper also aided and abetted Arts to publish an article which contained a statement which was a seditious publication.

It is alleged that Arts in his capacity as publisher of the Nai Lalakai newspaper published an article which contained a statement which was a seditious publication.

The statement was read out in court: “Muslims are not the owners of this country. These are people that have invaded other nations for example Bangladesh in India where they killed and raped their women and abused their children. Today they have gone to the extent of having a part in the running of the country.”

The statement which was allegedly a seditious publication is alleged to have been published with the intent and tendency to promote ill will and hostility between different classes of the population of Fiji.

Ravula and Wesley were alleged to be under contractual duty to assist Arts to publish the above mentioned edition of the Nai Lalakai newspaper by ensuring ethical standards were maintained including a duty to prevent publication of any seditious publication.

Justice Rajasinghe questioned Mr Haniff whether he had made a decision in relation to him appearing as counsel for Wesley, Arts and the Fiji Times Limited.

Mr Haniff maintained that he would continue to represent the two accused persons and the newspaper company.

However, Justice Rajasinghe stated that he would reject evidence tendered in court that might conflict the defence.

All accused men were further released on bail.

The case has been adjourned to December 1 for a pre-trial conference.

A new trial date has been set from December 11-15.

Edited by Caroline Ratucadra

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