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Last Updated: Sunday, 17 February 2008, 15:00 GMT
British lawyer deported from Fiji
Fijian soldier during December 2006 coup
Fiji saw its most recent coup in December 2006
A lawyer who was visiting Fiji to assess its legal system has been refused entry by the country's military-led interim government.

Reports describe Felicia Johnston as a British lawyer from the International Bar Association (IBA). She was detained shortly after arriving at the airport.

She was put on a flight to Brisbane in Australia seven hours later.

Following the government's action the IBA suspended its study, which was due to start on Monday.

Ms Johnston had flown to Fiji from Los Angeles and was said to be the first of the five-strong delegation from the IBA's Human Rights Institute to arrive in the country.

They had been due to examine the state of the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary during the five-day visit.

The IBA is the world's leading organisation of international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies.

Ms Johnston has been part of several delegations in the past, visiting Iran and Poland.

Negative image

The interim government, which took power two years ago in Fiji's fourth coup in 20 years, had opposed the IBA visit, claiming it would interfere with the country's constitution.

Interim Attorney General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum told the FijiLive website it was the government's decision not to allow the IBA into the country.

"The IBA is most welcome but not now," he said. "There are a number of matters before the court which could be compromised or prejudice the hearing of these matters."

Mr Sayed-Khaiyum said the Fiji Law Society had recently attacked the judiciary and the integrity of its members, and under such circumstances the IBA visit would not have been conducive to an independent assessment.

Fiji Law Society president Isireli Fa told the Fiji Times that Ms Johnston's deportation was a sign of weakness and created a negative image of the country.

The International Bar Association was unavailable for comment.



SEE ALSO
Country profile: Fiji
23 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Fiji
23 Jan 08 |  Country profiles
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17 Jan 08 |  Asia-Pacific
Fijians divided over coup outlook
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