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Judge Rules Disputed Facts To Be Argued In Trial Against Fiji Times, Executives

Judge Rules Disputed Facts To Be Argued In Trial Against Fiji Times, Executives
Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley (facing camera) outside the court on April 25, 2018. Photo: Simione Haravanua
April 26
11:00 2018

Disputed facts in the alleged sedition case against Fiji Times Limited and its execu­tives will be argued during trial.

This was the decision made by High Court Judge Justice Thush­ara Rajasinghe yesterday during pre-trial conference after he stated that the court could not force par­ties to agree to any of the facts.

All four accused men namely Nai Lalakai column writer Josaia Waqabaca, Nai Lalakai Editor Anare Ravula, Fiji Times Editor-in-Chief Fred Wesley, and Fiji Times publisher and general manager Hank Arts, appeared in court repre­sented by their respective lawyers Aman-Ravindra Singh, Nicholas Barnes and Wylie Clarke.

Mr Clarke is representing the newspaper company and appeared on instructions for Ravula who is represented by Devanesh Sharma.

Assistant Director of Public Pros­ecutions Lee Burney appeared for the State.

An issue which arose yesterday was the tendering of Fiji Times director Rajesh Patel’s affidavit in court as a State witness.

Mr Burney said Mr Patel could not stand-in as a representative of the company if he was going to give evidence for the State.

Mr Clarke responded and said that Mr Patel had always represented Fiji Times since they were charged except during the last Court date when Motibhai Group director Jinesh Patel appeared on his behalf because he was away overseas.

He said Mr Patel was the director of the newspaper company from whom they were taking their in­structions from.

Mr Clarke said Mr Patel simply could not be taken away from them just because the State had subpoe­naed him as a witness.

He stated that they might have to advance arguments on the issue.

Furthermore, Mr Burney revealed that he had served the proposed agreed facts on the Defence, howev­er he had not received any response from them.

Lawyers for the defence agreed to the employment contracts of Ravu­la, Wesley and Arts being tendered in evidence.

However, Mr Barnes said he did not have Arts’ original contract but would supply copies to the State.

Justice Rajasinghe said the con­tracts had to be in compliance with the Magistrates’ orders in the search warrant which was issued for the uplifting of the contracts from the Fiji Times office.

Mr Barnes, Mr Clarke and Mr Ravindra-Singh also stated that they were objecting to the English translation of the whole article which was provided by the Court.

Mr Barnes said this arose from the recent amendment of the charges against his clients and that there might be possible differences in the interpretations of the iTaukei lan­guage.

Mr Burney said all parties had previously made a binding agree­ment to accept the Court’s transla­tion and that a change in the charg­es does not release them from the binding. He said the defence should not be permitted to resile at the last minute.

Mr Barnes responded saying he was not the counsel in-carriage of the matter at that time and the de­fence was entitled to run their case as they saw fit.

Mr Clarke said their objection changed nothing as the burden of proof still rested with the State to prove the charges.

Mr Burney said if the defence was going to call expert evidence to dis­pute the translation than the State should also be given the opportu­nity to call their expert witness.

Mr Ravindra-Singh stated that he was not challenging the voluntari­ness of Waqabaca’s caution inter­view but he was challenging its truthfulness.

He also requested for the employ­ment status of the trial assessors. Bail for all accused men has been extended.

The case has been adjourned to April 30, 2018 for ruling on the no­tice of motion and for the first day of trial at High Court 1.

The accused persons and the newspaper company maintain a not guilty plea.

Edited by Percy Kean

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