Fiji Coup Plotters Said
Armed By Israeli Ambassador


Rebel soldiers carried out the 2000 Fiji coup with weapons supplied by the Israeli ambassador, a treason trial was told here Monday, December 2.

Army Captain Jotame Misivono told the High Court here that the weapons, which included Uzi sub-machine guns, gave the plotters an edge over the regular army and police.

Politician Timoci Silatolu and journalist Jo Nata are both on trial here for treason over the ousting and hostage-taking of the government headed by ethnic Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry, Agence France-Presse (AFP) reported.

The coup was carried out by special forces and led by failed businessman George Speight, who has since been jailed for life.

Misivono told the court an Israeli ambassador had brought the arms into Fiji, supplying sophisticated machine guns to the special forces unit involved.

"Those are Israeli-made weapons brought into the country and given to the unit by an Israeli ambassador while he was still in Fiji," Misivono told the court.

He said the weapons gave the special forces an edge over the rest of the uniformed services in Fiji.
Earlier in May 9, 2002, the Prime Minister of Fiji, Laisenia Qarase, has agreed with the Israel Ambassador, H. E. Ruth Kahanoff that the two countries should strengthen their relations though they are so far apart geographically.

He expressed this sentiment while welcoming the Israel Ambassador recently, upon her courtesy call on the Prime Minister.

In other evidence presented on Monday, a former government printer, Pio Bosco Tikoisuva, said Speight had ordered him to print decrees which would grant the coup leaders new powers.

"He said if I don't authorize the printing of their decrees then we'd (Speight and his people) go down to the printery and force the staff to print them," he said.

"I said I would authorize the printing because I feared for my staff." Amongst decrees produced in the court was one that changed the command line of the Fiji Military Forces, decreeing that the then army spokesman Filipo Tarakinikini be the new chief of staff.

Tarakinikini was posted to the United Nations in New York last year but refused to return home after the completion of his term. He is understood to have claimed refugee status in the United States.

Speight has already been found guilty of treason for his role in the coup, which overthrew Fiji's first ethnic Indian prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry.

Ever since 1987, racial and political tensions have been a source of domestic instability and international isolation for the islands. In 1987, a coup by indigenous Fijians overthrew the elected, Indian-dominated coalition. This triggered the introduction - and subsequent withdrawal - of a constitution enshrining ethnic Fijian political supremacy, BBC's online news service reported.



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