[JURIST] The Fiji High Court sentenced eight men to prison terms ranging from three to seven years for plotting the assassination of the leader of the country's military government on Friday. The sentencing judge, Justice Paul Madigan chastised the men [BBC report] for their greed and racial motivations in the plot to assassinate Prime Minister Commodore Josaia Voreqe Frank Bainimarama [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], in 2007. The court described the plot as involving the assassination of Bainimarama, the removal of the president and the Indo-Fijians [UNHCR backgrounder], and the declaration of martial law, during which the plot leaders would request assistance from New Zealand and Australia. The two longest sentences were given to Chief Ratu Inoke Takiveikata, a leader of Naitasiri province, and former Pacific Connex employee Sivaniolo Naulago, who both received seven years [FBC report]. The others convicted were former soldiers Barbados Mills, who received six-and-a-half years, Feoko Gadikibau, who was sentenced to five-and-a-half years, Kaminieli Vosavere, who was sentenced to four years, Eparama Waqatairewa and Pauliasi Ramulo, who were each sentenced to three years, and former head of Fiji Military Intelligence [Fiji Times report] Metuisela Mua, who was sentenced to three-and-a-half years. The men were initially arrested and charged with the plot in 2007, eleven months after the 2006 military coup [JURIST reports]. Five of those sentenced Friday [AFP report] were part of a military unit that had mutinied against Bainimarama in 2000.
The Commonwealth of Nations [official website] suspended [JURIST report] Fiji from its organization in September because it failed to meet the September 1 deadline for reinstating a constitutional democracy and opening a national dialogue. The Pacific Islands Forum [official website] suspended [JURIST report] Fiji's membership in the 16-nation bloc in May after Fiji's current military government failed to meet a May 1 deadline to schedule elections. Bainimarama announced plans [JURIST report] in July to establish a new constitution by September 2013. Bainimarama said that the new constitution would be in place at least one year prior to the elections planned for September 2014. In April, former president Ratu Josefa Iloilo suspended the constitution and revoked the appointment of all judicial officers after a ruling [JURIST reports] from the Fiji Court of Appeal declaring the appointment of the military government following the 2006 coup unconstitutional. Bainimarama took control in the wake of the coup, which ousted former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile].