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8 jailed for plot to kill Fiji army leader

world Updated: Mar 05, 2010 12:41 IST

A Fijian high chief and seven others were jailed on Friday after being convicted of plotting to kill military dictator Voreqe Bainimarama.

High chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata was jailed for seven years for his part in the alleged plot in late 2007, a year after Bainimarama ousted the elected government in a coup.

The other seven, who included five former members of a military unit who mutinied against military commander Bainimarama in 2000, were sentenced to terms of between seven and three years.

Fiji High Court judge Paul Madigan said the eight men had plotted the assassination with New Zealand-based businessman Ballu Khan, who won a permanent stay of proceedings on charges against him in 2008 and returned to Auckland.

Takiveikata was a business partner of Khan. The other accused worked for the controversial businessman.

The court had been told the plotters, who were infiltrated by military intelligence, planned to declare a police state and request Australia and New Zealand for assistance.

"The theme throughout the trial of weakening the military, 'removing' the commodore (Bainimarama) and the president, ridding the country of Indo-Fijians, reveals both sinister and racial intentions," Judge Madigan said.

"In late 2007 the state of Fiji was in a very fragile state, and had this plot succeeded, the consequences are unthinkable."

Khan said in Auckland after hearing news of the convictions that he and the eight convicted men had never plotted to kill Bainimarama.

"None of them should be going to jail, they should have never been tried in the first place. The military people should have been in the dock and being charged," Khan told Radio New Zealand.

"Everyone in New Zealand must appreciate that we are dealing with Fijian judiciary here. It's not an independent judiciary."

Bainimarama sacked the judiciary in April last year and threw out the constitution after a court ruled his regime was illegal. His government has since appointed new judges.