Charge clarification

THE lawyers of three senior Fiji Times Ltd officials and the company facing a sedition charge yesterday asked the State to clarify the particulars of the charge against their clients.

Nai Lalakai editor, Anare Ravula, The Fiji Times editor-in-chief, Fred Wesley, the company’s general manager and publisher, Hank Arts, the company and a letter writer, Josaia Waqabaca are charged with one count each of sedition.

Ravula is represented by Devanesh Sharma, Mr Waqabaca by Aman Ravindra-Singh and, Wesley, Mr Arts and the company are represented by Feizal Haniff.

The defence, excluding Mr Waqabaca, is challenging the amended charge against them on the basis that further and better particulars are required of the charges.

They are alleged to have published a letter in the Nai Lalakai in April last year.

The five appeared before Justice Thushara Rajasinghe at the High Court in Suva yesterday.

In his submissions, Mr Sharma said when anything was published, the issue of intention to publish was important. However, he said the State had not particularised the intention issue in the charge against his client and the two senior newspaper officials. Mr Sharma said the State needed to prove if Ravula had seditious intention and if he intended to promote ill feelings to different communities in Fiji.

He said the State crossed the boundary by not differentiating between article and publication, and printing and publishing.

He said the offence was not a strict liability, but instead an offence that required intention to be proved.

He said the State needed to prove that the four accused had published or were the authors of the article.

Mr Haniff, on the other hand, argued the State charged The Fiji Times without giving the particulars of the offence.

He said the State’s submissions against their challenge only showed case authorities of contempt and not of sedition.

Mr Haniff said the State must give the particulars of the charge and inform the defence if the company had a seditious intention to publish the letter.

State prosecutor Yogesh Prasad could not clarify some matters asked in court yesterday, saying he was only appearing on behalf of Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Lee Burney, who is the officer in carriage of the case.

However, he informed the court that the State stood by the charge and the information filed and relied on the submissions by Mr Burney.

Bail has been extended for all five and Justice Rajasinghe will deliver his ruling on the matter on July 27.

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