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Last Updated: Thursday, 2 June, 2005, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Fiji opposition protests new bill
Fijian Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase
Mr Qarase insisted not all coup plotters would be freed
Fiji's opposition Labour party has walked out of parliament in protest at proposed legislation which could free key conspirators of the 2000 coup.

The bill would allow coup plotters to seek amnesties, if they were deemed to have acted for political reasons.

Coup leader George Speight, who is serving a life sentence for treason, is among those who could be freed.

The head of the Labour Party, Mahendra Choudhry, was ousted as Fiji's first Indian prime minister during the coup.

The Labour Party is not alone in its opposition to the new bill. The military, police and a number of civil rights groups have also voiced concerns.

"We feel that this bill is not going to take us anywhere, because it brings disunity rather than unity," the spokesman for the Coalition of Human Rights, Ponipate Ravula, told the French news agency AFP.

The proposed law states that anyone already convicted and serving a prison sentence for involvement in the coup will be able to have their case reconsidered if they seek amnesty on the grounds that their actions were political rather than criminal.

Any person granted amnesty will then be released "forthwith", the bill states.

Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase insisted the law would not free all coup conspirators.

"There is no general amnesty for everybody - that's not going to happen," he told New Zealand radio.

Mr Qarase said the main purpose of the bill was to heal the often fractured relations between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians.

He said that Fijians had to remember that many of those who took part in the coup were not criminals but indigenous people who were merely answering the call of their traditional leaders.

The bill is expected to be debated in parliament in August.




SEE ALSO:
Fiji army withdraws PM's security
11 Feb 05 |  Asia-Pacific
Jail term for Fiji vice-president
06 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Fiji leaders convicted over coup
05 Aug 04 |  Asia-Pacific
Stalemate over Fiji cabinet
03 Sep 03 |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Fiji
24 May 03 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Fiji
10 Mar 03 |  Country profiles


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