Arrested Kiwi feared for his family's safety

Last updated 00:00 06/11/2007

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Treason charges have been laid against three men in an alleged plot to kill Fiji coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama.
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Fiji police say they have arrested 16 people over an assassination plot against Commodore Bainimarama.

Fiji-born millionaire Ballu Khan, a New Zealander beaten by soldiers and police when he was arrested on Saturday over alleged involvement, is still waiting to be charged.

Prime Minister Helen Clark revealed yesterday that Mr Khan went to the New Zealand high commission in Suva a few weeks ago fearful for his and his family's safety.

Consular officials were allowed to visit Mr Khan on Sunday but all other requests to see him were refused.

"Access had been sought on Saturday and was denied. About 11.40 on Sunday morning the high commission staff were able to visit him in the hospital where he is under guard by military and police," Miss Clark said.

"And it was a concern that his guards overnight included one of the people who he was able to identify as having played a part in beating him up and he was subjected to further verbal harassment from that person."

Officials said Mr Khan had been so badly beaten he had difficulty speaking. They had not been allowed back since.

Mr Khan's lawyer, Tevita Fa, was finally able to see Mr Khan late yesterday and said his injuries were serious and included a broken jaw.

"He is a sick man," Tevita Fa said.

"There are visible signs of injuries on his face. He complained to me that he has got internal pain."

Military-appointed Police Commissioner Elesa Teleni said yesterday that three men had been charged with treason, inciting to mutiny and five counts each of conspiracy to murder. He did not name the men but legal sources in Fiji named them as paramount chief Ratu Inoke Takivekata and the one-time head of the disbanded Fiji Security Service, Colonel Metuisela Mua. The third is a former special forces soldier from the Counter Revolutionary Warfare unit.

Mr Teleni said Mr Khan would be questioned after being discharged from hospital. He denied Mr Khan had been mistreated. "Let me assure you that Ballu Khan sustained only minor injuries and has been treated at (hospital). These injuries were the result of both Mr Khan and his bodyguard resisting arrest and assaulting police officers."

Mr Teleni said the plot involved businessmen, chiefs and prominent members of political parties.

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The threat of the use of arms and explosives was imminent. But when asked if weapons had been seized, he replied no.

"I did this because of the report that I have received that the suspects were armed and travelling in groups and it was only prudent, given the status of police operations and police capability, that the military was involved," Mr Teleni said.

Yesterday Commodore Bainimarama said Fiji was safe for tourists and his police would do everything to safeguard them.

Miss Clark said the Government was "extremely concerned" at Mr Khan's treatment in custody and called for Fiji's interim government to respect his human rights.

There was no justification for beating up a man in detention, she said.

Fiji has accused non-government organisations funded by foreign governments of being involved in the plot - drawing a swift denunciation from Miss Clark.

"The statements from the Fiji authorities cast a wide veil of suspicion; from New Zealand's point of view, we have no part in financing or supporting any activities of such kind in Fiji."

- The Dominion Post

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