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Fiji High Court rejects former PM's plea

world Updated: Oct 09, 2008 15:51 IST

Fiji's High Court on Thursday rejected a legal challenge by the former Prime Minister that his dismissal in a military coup in 2006 was illegal.

The court ruled that the country's President acted within the law when he authorised a transition of power to the country's military leader following the coup. Former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase warned that the decision would invite further military takeovers in the South Pacific nation.

Armed forces chief and self-appointed Prime Minister, Commodore Frank Bainimarama, overthrew Qarase's democratically elected Government on December 5, 2006, after accusing it of corruption and imposing racist policies.

The putsch followed months of public arguing between Qarase and Bainimarama that paralysed many Government operations.

Qarase and his dismissed Cabinet ministers claimed that Bainimarama had breached Fiji's Constitution, acted beyond his legal powers and had not taken the advice of the nation's President. They also claimed that all the decisions and appointments made by the military-led regime since the coup had been unlawful.

But Chief Justice Anthony Gates and two other senior judges dismissed the claims, ruling that the South Pacific nation's President, Ratu Josefa Iloilo, had acted lawfully when he authorised a transfer of power to Bainimarama.

Gates was appointed after the coup when the previous chief justice was sacked, but the military government did not place the other judges in today's hearing.