21st July 06:21 PM
Lawyers make closing submissions in Fiji Times sedition trial
By Semi Turaga and Naveel Krishant
Wednesday 16/05/2018
Hank Arts, Fred Wesley, Josaia Waqabaca and Anare Ravula

The defence lawyers in the Fiji Times sedition trial have made their closing submissions.

Josaia Waqabaca’s lawyer, Aman Ravindra Singh says that Waqabaca was a regular contributor to the Nai Lalakai after September 2014. 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.

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.

He says he has looked everywhere for this evidence, under the table, everywhere, adding he supposes that even the DPP’s Office  is searching for this evidence.

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.

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.

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 possibility could to ensure great care was taken to avoid this sort of situation.   

Assistant DPP, Lee Burney says the defence is now seeking to persuade that his case is hopeless.


Assistant DPP, Lee Burney and Aman Ravindra Singh

Burney says they should not worry about his feelings as he has done this for a long time and he has thick skin. He says this is a very serious case and it will determine the type of society we want to live in.

The Assistant DPP says Clarke said it was all about silencing the government. He says he thought he was standing for parliament and that sedition is not used to punish, it is used to protect. Burney adds that they do not want reconciliation, they want division.

Burney says that Clarke said that Richard Naidu was an excellent witness adding it was because he was from the same law firm and said how wonderful the Fiji Times was.

Burney adds the people in charge at the Fiji Times do not know what is wrong and that is why he is talking about the fish rotting from the head.

Fiji Times Limited, Hank Arts and Josaia Waqabaca have pleaded not guilty to sedition while Fred Wesley and Anare Ravula have pleaded not guilty to aiding and abetting sedition.

It is alleged that Fiji Times 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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