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Former Fiji PM faces trial for inciting military mutiny

[JURIST] Former Fijian Prime Minister Sitiveni Rabuka [Wikipedia profile] was ordered Tuesday to stand trial for allegedly attempting to incite a military mutiny in November 2000 after rebel Counter Revolutionary Warfare [Wikipedia backgrounder] soldiers attempted to remove military leader Commodore Frank Bainimarama [Wikipedia profile], leading to a gun battle that resulted in the deaths of eight servicemen. Bainimarama had taken control of Fiji [government website; BBC timeline; JURIST news archive] and declared an interim military government in late May 2000 in response to what he considered an ineffectual response by the country's president to an attempted coup [JURIST report] led by Fijian nationalist George Speight [BBC profile] against the government of Fiji's first ethnic Indian Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry [BBC profile], who had been elected head of the tiny Pacific island nation in 1999. Bainimarama handed control of the government to a new civilian president in July 2000, but continued to exercise influence afterwards.

Fiji Supreme Court Justice Gerard Winter rejected a petition by Rabuka's defense team to stay the proceedings because the alleged attempted mutiny occurred six years ago. The trial could get underway as early as Wednesday, but on Tuesday Winter barred reporters from covering it, or even reporting on the legal arguments made at the pre-trial hearing. Rabuka himself came to power in 1987 after he led a successful military coup [BBC timeline] by walking into the Parliament building and seizing control; Fiji's Supreme Court now sits in the former Parliament building that Rabuka stormed in 1987. AP has more.

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