23rd September 03:06 AM
Fiji Times, Arts and Wesley ask for more time after terminating the services of their new lawyer
By Vijay Narayan and Dhanjay Deo
Monday 11/12/2017
Fiji Times Publisher Hank Arts and Editor Fred Wesley

The trial of Fiji Times Limited and others will now be held from the 4th to the 8th of June next year.

This is after accused persons, Fiji Times Editor Fred Wesley and Publisher Hank Arts said that they need time to get new lawyers.

There was another twist in the sedition case of Fiji Times Limited and others today as the lawyer for Fiji Times, Hank Arts and Fred Wesley made an application for him to withdraw from the case.

Suva lawyer Pravesh Sharma told High Court Judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe that his clients have terminated his instructions and they want to get a new lawyer.

Sharma said that his clients are also making an application to vacate the matter to mid-February for them to appoint a new lawyer.

Pravesh Sharma said that Faizal Haniff was the lawyer for Fiji Times, Hank Arts and Fred Wesley throughout and when Haniff stepped aside just last Thursday, they did not have time to seek other counsels in New Zealand.

Sharma said that his clients feel it was rushed.

Justice Rajasinghe then said Haniff continued with the case till the 11th hour, knowing that there may be a conflict of interest in representing Fiji Times, Arts and Wesley.

Pravesh Sharma said that the three accused are still coming to terms as to why Haniff stepped aside.

He also said that Fiji Times, Arts and Wesley need time as Haniff has now been summoned and Sharma cannot talk to Haniff.

Nai Lalakai Editor Anare Ravula’s lawyer Devanesh Sharma did not oppose the application however he said Faizal Haniff was warned time and again that there could be a conflict of interest in representing Fiji Times, Arts and Wesley.

Devanesh Sharma said that if Haniff and Rajesh Patel are now state witnesses, then the defence should have received the relevant statements from the prosecution.

Assistant DPP Lee Burney said that the criminal justice system cannot function if the accused persons terminate their lawyers on the eve of their trial. He said that Pravesh Sharma took the case as his clients chose him freely and he had taken instructions from them on Thursday.

Burney said the question is do they force them to face trial or adjourn the matter.

He said that reluctantly and in fairness, he is saying that they cannot just go ahead with the trial.

The trial of Fiji Times Limited, Hank Arts, Fred Wesley, Nai Lalakai Editor Anare Ravula and contributor Josaia Waqabaca was expected to start today.

The case has now been adjourned for mention on the 9th of February next year.

The charges were earlier amended from inciting communal antagonism to sedition.

According to the amended information earlier filed and served to Fiji Times Limited and others, it is alleged that Fiji Times, on the 27th of April last year printed the Nai Lalakai newspaper which contained an article which had content with a seditious intention to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between classes of the population.

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