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Page last updated at 05:46 GMT, Thursday, 16 July 2009 06:46 UK

Fiji freemasons held for sorcery

Masonic symbol of square and compass
Fijian villagers are not the first to puzzle over Freemasonry's rituals

A group of freemasons have had to spend a night in jail in Fiji, after local villagers complained they were practising witchcraft.

The 14 men, including eight Australians and a New Zealander, had been holding a night-time meeting on Denerau island.

The New Zealand man told reporters he had spent a "wretched" time in jail, and blamed the mix-up on the actions of "dopey village people".

Police also seized wands, compasses and a skull from the freemasons' lodge.

Freemasonry is a centuries-old club that practises secret rituals and has more than five million members worldwide.

'Nothing sinister'

The New Zealander, who did not want to give his name, told the New Zealand Herald that Tuesday night's meeting was "interrupted by a banging on the door, and there were these village people and the police demanding to be let in".

Nothing sinister was going on, he claimed, but "such is the nature of life in Fiji" they were taken to a nearby police station.

The freemasons insist they had a permit for the meeting and were released after spending an uncomfortable night there.

Police director of operations Waisea Tabakau told Legend FM News in Fiji that the group was being investigated for "allegedly practising sorcery", the Fiji Village website reported.

The New Zealand man said that when they were freed the following morning, they were told their release was on the orders of the prime minister's office.

Emergency regulations imposed by Fiji's military regime allow police to detain people for up to 48 hours without charge.



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