'Fiji officer jailed over coup plot'

11 December 2013 4:37 AM

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Suva (Fiji) (AFP) - A former army chief convicted of plotting a coup against Fiji's military regime was jailed for five years Wednesday, with a judge labelling his actions "treasonous and mutinous", reports said.

Former Land Force commander Pita Driti was found guilty last month of leading a 2010 plot to overthrow military strongman Voreqe Bainimarama and assassinate Attorney-General Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum.

While the coup never eventuated, High Court judge Paul Madigan said Driti had failed to show the loyalty and discipline expected of the Pacific nation's armed forces, the Fijilive news website reported.

"It is a matter of surprise and sadness that at your age and with your illustrious career behind you that you should come to be involved in this seditious undertaking," Madigan said.

The Fiji Broadcasting Corporation said Driti was sentenced to five years jail, with a four-year non-parole period.

Prosecution witness Lieutenant-Colonel Manasa Tagicakibau told the court last month that Driti approached him in October 2010 seeking support for a plan to oust Bainimarama, who seized power himself in a 2006 coup.

Tagicakibau said Driti complained Sayed-Khaiyum, widely seen as Bainimarama's number two, had too much influence on the military leader and should be killed.

He allegedly wanted to depose Bainimarama in October 2010 while he was in Sudan visiting Fijian troops serving as UN peacekeepers.

Tagicakibau said he and two other officers blew the whistle on the plot just before Bainimarama's scheduled departure for Sudan.

Driti was subsequently arrested and an alleged co-conspirator, Lieutenant-Colonel Tevita Mara, fled to neighbouring Tonga, where he has ties to the aristocratic elite.

Fiji has experienced four coups since the mid-1980s, largely stemming from tensions between indigenous Fijians and ethnic Indians brought over by Britain in the colonial era to work on sugar plantations.

In 2010, a group of eight men, including military officers and a tribal chief, were convicted of plotting to kill Bainimarama in 2007 and received sentences ranging from three to seven years.

Source: au.news.yahoo.com

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