19th September 11:07 AM
Justice Rajasinghe to sum up the Fiji Times sedition case on Friday
By Semi Turaga
Wednesday 16/05/2018
Hank Arts, Fred Wesley, Anare Ravula and Josaia Waqabaca

High Court Judge Justice Thushara Rajasinghe will sum up the Fiji Times sedition case on Friday before the three assessors retire behind closed doors to deliberate on their opinion.

While delivering the closing submission for the prosecution, Assistant DPP Lee Burney told the assessors that we have to take action now before the mosques and churches are burnt down.

We have to take action now before the mosques and churches are burnt down - Assistant DPP Lee Burney

He said it is not the Fiji Times that was courageous, it is the Permanent Secretary for Itaukei Affairs for condemning the article which was against Muslims.

He said what happens in this case is important for our country because it will determine what you can say in a national newspaper. Burney also said that ethno religious nationalism is a toxic influence.

He said the Fiji Times provided a platform for Josaia Waqabaca because without the Nai Lalakai, Waqabaca is just an old man sitting at home typing poisonous articles.

Burney said in this case, it is the Muslims that have been singled out and who is going to stand up when the next article comes up or when the next religion is singled out.

He also said it is no use saying after one week that it is old news because you have already planted the seed.

Josaia Waqabaca’s lawyer, Aman Ravindra Singh says the Attorney General has not been called to give evidence and it is safe to conclude that the original recipient had no issues.

Waqabaca was using his right of freedom of expression - Aman Ravindra Singh

He says Waqabaca simply wrote a letter expressing his concerns, adding that not a single complaint was lodged by a religious group while Muslims were mentioned.

Singh says two months later, the Permanent Secretary for iTaukei Affairs woke up, obviously directed by someone and filed a complaint.

Waqabaca’s lawyer says that Waqabaca was using his right of freedom of expression.

He questioned where is the evidence regarding seditious intention.

Singh also questioned on whether people were attacking people of the Muslim faith.

He concluded by saying that there was also not a single evidence by someone who said that my faith was attacked and there was no evidence from a village or rural area where the complaints were made.

Nai Lalakai’s editor, Anare Ravula’s lawyer, Devanesh Sharma in his closing submission says the letter is not seditious and the  letter is capable of having several meanings. He says that the letter contains issues of national interest.

The letter is not seditious and the letter is capable of having several meanings - Devanesh Sharma

Sharma says it does not tell you that Muslims of Fiji are capable of what Muslims in Bangladesh allegedly did.

Sharma also said that no one complained to the Media Industry Development Authority and neither did MIDA take any issue.

Hank Arts and Fred Wesley’s lawyer, Marc Corlett says all of the evidence shows that neither Arts nor Wesley knew about the letter. He says that the simple thing to do is to look at the letter as a whole and ask if the letter is seditious.

Corlett says the letter was persuading people to change things lawfully.

Wylie Clarke who is the lawyer for Fiji Times Limited says the prosecution is only focusing on the part about Muslims.

Wylie Clarke, Marc Corlett and Nicholas Barnes

Clarke says this is dangerous because the case is about a man who is troubled about what the government is doing.

He says you cannot ignore or suppress opinion just because you don't like it.

Clarke says the letter does not give an ultimatum and there was no such threat to the Attorney General. He says Fiji Times did everything it possibly could to ensure great care was taken to avoid this sort of situation.

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