ODPP withdraws death charges

THE Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions has withdrawn manslaughter charges laid against eight police officers and a soldier in relation to the death of Vilikesa Soko last year.

However, State lawyers said they would not remove the rape charge laid against the men.

Soko died in police custody last August after he was brought in for questioning on a robbery case.

The accused, Manasa Talala, Seruvi Caqusau, Kelevi Sewatu, Penaia Drauna, Filise Vere, Viliame Vereivalu, Pita Matairavula and Senitiki Natakasavu, appeared before the High Court in Lautoka for mention.

All were present in court except for Jona Davonu, who is remanded in custody in Suva for another matter.

In addition to this, Talala and Vereivalu are charged with attempting to defeat the course of justice by instructing other police officers to make false statements.

Defence lawyers asked the court for seven days to make a plea on the amended information during the next mention date.

State lawyers filed the voir dire and additional disclosures in court yesterday.

A trial date is expected to be fixed on November 5.

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