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Sunday, June 4, 2023

Former Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Pleads not Guilty to Abuse of Office

Former Fiji Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama Pleads not Guilty to Abuse of Office – The former Fijian leader Frank Bainimarama has been released on bail and said he “served with integrity,” after pleading not guilty to abusing his power as prime minister by stopping a police investigation. “I served as prime minister with integrity and with the interests of all Fijians at heart,” he told reporters outside a courtroom in Suva on Friday. 

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The country’s chief prosecutor announced charges on Thursday in connection to a complaint made to the police by the University of the South Pacific in July 2019 concerning the actions of former staff members. Local media reported that Sitiveni Tukaituraga Qiliho, the police commissioner who was suspended, pleaded not guilty to charges of abuse of office and was granted bail.

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“The former prime minister, Frank Bainimarama, and the suspended police commissioner, Sitiveni Qiliho, are alleged to have arbitrarily and in abuse of the authority of their respective offices, terminated an active police investigation,” chief prosecutor Christopher Pryde said. “The police have also been requested to undertake further investigations into other matters arising from this case and more charges may be laid against other suspects in due course.”

On Thursday, the two men were detained for questioning and spent the night in custody, which further complicates the already unstable political situation in the Pacific nation. After coming to power in a bloodless coup in 2006, the 68-year-old Bainimarama had been the leader of Fiji until he was replaced as prime minister in the closely contested general election held last December.

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Following his critical remarks about his successor Sitiveni Rabuka and president Wiliame Katonivere in a speech, parliament suspended Bainimarama until 2026 in February. Acting Assistant Police Commissioner Sakeo Raikaci, in announcing the charges, also sought to address public claims that the investigation had been unduly prolonged and influenced by senior officers.

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“I want to reiterate the independence of the investigation processes in place, as what is being witnessed is not an attempt to purposely delay the investigation or questioning processes, but this is the proper manner in which investigations are to be conducted,” Raikaci said in a statement.

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