Nai Lalakai trial: Concerns raised on amended charges

Lawyer Nicholas Barnes, Fiji Times Publisher and general manager Hank Arts, Lawyer Wylie Clarke, Motibhai Group sales and marketing executive Jinesh Patel and Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley outside the High Court in Suva yesterday. Picture: JONA K

Lawyer Nicholas Barnes, Fiji Times Publisher and general manager Hank Arts, Lawyer Wylie Clarke, Motibhai Group sales and marketing executive Jinesh Patel and Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley outside the High Court in Suva yesterday. Picture: JONA K

THE Fiji Times sedition case was called before the court yesterday.

The company is charged with Nai Lalakai editor Anare Ravula, The Fiji Times editor-in-chief Fred Wesley, the company’s general manager and publisher, Hank Arts and a letter writer, Josaia Waqabaca, with one count each of having published or caused to publish or aided and abetted the publication of a letter in the Nai Lalakai newspaper on April 27, 2016 that was alleged to be seditious.

High Court judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe had on April 9 granted leave to the Prosecution to amend the information, which is the document containing the charges against accused persons, on the conditions that the Prosecution removed the annexure to the information and specifically provide the details of the classes of the population for which the article printed by the company allegedly promoted the feeling of ill-will and hostility in the particulars of the offence.

Yesterday’s appearance was for pleas to be taken in respect of the amended charges.

However, the defence lawyers raised a number of concerns with the amended charges.

Fiji Times Ltd lawyer Wylie Clarke informed the High Court yesterday that the sedition charges against his client and others were ambiguous.

Mr Arts and Wesley’s lawyer, Nicholas Barnes also told the High Court yesterday that the alleged seditious article was published in the letters to the editor column of the said vernacular newspaper and should be described as such in the charge rather than as an article.

There was also reference to an agreed translation which should be removed.

The judge directed the DPP and the defence lawyers to liaise with each other over the wording of the charges and to come back before him on April 13 so that pleas could be taken.

The judge also gave direction on an outstanding application by the DPP for pre-trial orders to be dealt with before the trial commences on April 30, 2018.

Bail has been extended for all five. They will reappear in court tomorrow.