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Fiji Court Rejects Bail for Vice President

August 23, 2004

SUVA, Fiji (AP) _ A Fiji appeals court rejected bail Monday for the South Pacific island nation’s vice president and four other men convicted on treason-related charges earlier this month.

Ratu Jope Seniloli, 65, was sentenced to four years in prison for swearing in new leaders after a May 2000 coup toppled Fiji’s prime minister. He sought release on bail while he appealed his conviction and sentence.

The appeals court rejected the argument that there were special circumstances for granting bail, Seniloli’s lawyer, Mehboob Raza, told The Associated Press. Raza said he expected the men’s appeals to be heard in November.

None of the five convicted men appeared in court, which was closed to the public and media.

Seniloli was convicted Aug. 5 of administering an illegal oath of office when he swore in the rebel government of ethnic Fijian nationalist George Speight after the coup.

Ratu Raquita Vakalalabure, the suspended deputy speaker of Parliament, was imprisoned for six years and three others were imprisoned for one to three years after being convicted of illegally swearing allegiance to a rebel government.

The defendants claimed Speight coerced them into joining in the coup by saying he wanted to restore power to indigenous Fijians.

But prosecutors said they were not forced and that Seniloli knew about the coup before it took place.

Seniloli retains the title of vice president while appealing his conviction.

Speight is serving a life sentence for treason.

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