Courtroom

Assessors return not guilty verdict in Fiji Times sedition case

The three assessors in the Fiji Times sedition trial have returned with a unanimous not guilty verdict.

Nanise Volau

May 18, 2018 5:56 pm

Clockwise from top left: Josaia Waqabaca, Anare Ravula, Hank Arts, and Fred Wesley outside the High Court in Suva on May 18, 2018. Photo by Newswire.

Following a three-hour summing up by High Court judge, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe, the three assessors deliberated for one hour behind closed doors before returning to a jam-packed courtroom with a not-guilty verdict on all accused.

They found Fiji Times Publisher Hank Arts not guilty of the charge of publishing a seditious article in their Fijian language newspaper, Nai Lalakai. They also found Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula and Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley not guilty of having aided and abetted the publication of a seditious article.

Letter writer Josaia Waqabaca was also found not guilty of the charge of submitting for publication an article written by him with a seditious intention, while the Fiji Times Ltd which is charged with printing a seditious publication was also found not guilty by the assessors.

Justice Rajasinghe will deliver his judgement on the assessors’ verdict next Tuesday inside High Court number one at 11:30 am. Under Fiji’s criminal law, the judge can either concur or over-rule the assessors’ opinion.

The accused face up to seven years imprisonment if convicted of the charges.

The Fiji Times company, Arts, Wesley, Nai Lalakai’s Ravula, and letter writer Waqabaca have been on trial in the Suva High Court last week over a letter Waqabaca had sent and got published in the Nai Lalakai newspaper two years ago.

Mr Waqabaca faced one count of submitting for publication an article written by him with a seditious intention, while Ravula and Wesley were charged with one count each of having aided and abetted the publication of a letter in the Nai Lalakai newspaper on April 27, 2016, by failing to prevent its publication.

The Fiji Times Limited was charged with one count of printing a seditious publication while Mr Arts was charged with one count of publishing in the Nai Lalakai a seditious article.

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