State did not know who’s responsible, says counsel

Lawyers Wylie Clarke and Marc Corlett outside the Suva High Court yesterday. Picture: JONA KONATACI

THE defence counsel in the Nai Lalakai case yesterday informed the court that the State did not know who was responsible for the publication of a letter in the Nai Lalakai newspaper that is alleged to be seditious. Fiji Times lawyer Wylie Clarke and the counsel for The Fiji Times publisher Hank Arts and editor-in-chief Fred Wesley, Queens Counsel Marc Corlett highlighted the above point concurrently in their response to prosecution’s reply to the no case to answer application.

Today, High Court judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe will deliver his ruling on the no case to answer application by all defence counsel made on Friday. Mr Corlett said the State had suggested in their submission that somebody must have done something, but it was not clear as to who it was.

He said it was not proper for prosecution to drag three people into court without knowing who in fact was responsible for the publication of the alleged seditious article.

Mr Corlett stated that the prosecution had not provided any evidence to show which of the three accused persons, if any, knew about the article, or even saw the article, did anything to have it published and who authorised it to be printed.

Mr Corlett also said it was not proper to drag three people into court and throw it to defence to properly investigate and determine who if any of the three accused persons did any act.

Mr Clarke said the State had not provided any evidence to prove that Fiji Times had necessary seditious intention. He said the State case was merely hypothetical as the prosecution presumed and suggested numerous suppositions in its submission.

Nai Lalakai letter writer Josaia Waqabaca’s lawyer, Aman Ravindra-Singh in his response said nobody reacted to the alleged seditious article except the Ministry of iTaukei Affairs permanent secretary, Naipote Katonitabua. Mr Ravindra-Singh said his client was charged on the basis that the letter could have caused ill-will or hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims, but the prosecution presented no evidence to prove that there was ill-will or hostility.

Nai Lalakai newspaper editor Anare Ravula’s lawyer, Devanesh Sharma in his response said his client’s charge was of aiding and abetting and that the State alleges he had aided and abetted by failing in his contractual duty to prevent the publication of a seditious article but there was no contractual duty to prevent the publication of any seditious publication.

He also said that Mr Ravula’s contractual duty did not require him to report to Mr Arts. He said there was no evidence to prove that his client had seen, published or aided and abetted Mr Arts to publish the alleged seditious article. Mr Sharma said the State had failed to present an expert witness in court to explain how a newspaper company operated.

Fiji Times is charged with one count of printing a seditious publication. Hank Arts is charged with one count of publishing in the Nai Lalakai a seditious article while the writer Josaia Waqabaca is charged with one count of submitting for publication an article written by him with a seditious intention while, Nai Lalakai editor Ravula and editor-in-chief, Wesley are 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.

Assistant DPP Lee Burney is representing the State. He is assisted by Yogesh Prasad and Unaisi Tamanikaiyaroi.

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