Fiji police investigated after alleged killing

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 19:14 24/08/2014

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Fiji authorities have revealed gruesome details of how a prisoner died while being held in police custody.

Vilikesa Ratu Soko, 30, was among suspects taken in by police last weekend in connection with the F$50,000 (NZ$32,200) daylight robbery of a currency bank in Nadi.

Three days later he was dead in Lautoka Hospital.

Republika magazine and the Fiji Times reported today that an autopsy had shown Soko died of massive internal injuries including injuries to his private parts.

Fiji police have previously been videoed sexually abusing and bashing prisoners in custody, but Soko's assault appears especially savage.

The autopsy report says Soko died of multiple causes, including multiple organ failure, blot clots in the lung, bacterial infection of the blood, severe trauma to the penis and traumatic rectal injury.

Soko and another suspect were both admitted in hospital after their arrest. A third suspect told the court of police brutality and asked for bail.

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Republika quoted Nadi doctor Isireli Biumaitotoya saying the report showed severe trauma to limbs and body, and muscles and bones had been pulverised.

"This is really a 99 per cent mortality situation. There is simply no hope in Fiji that doctors can do anything to save this man. He is doomed before he reached the hospital," says Biumaitotoya. 

Newly appointed Fiji Police Commissioner Ben Groenewald, a South African, has told Soko's family there would be a thorough investigation.

"I have sent my most senior people - the Internal Affairs investigators - to the location of what happened near Sigatoka, to Nadi and to the Lautoka Hospital," Groenewald said.

He pleaded with members of the public and the media not to jump to conclusions but to await the autopsy examination results.

"I just want to assure the Fijian people that every stage of this process will be transparent and when I get the information we need, I will share it with you."

In March last year a 9-minute, 11-second video emerged showing a re-captured prisoner Epeli Qaraniqio being savagely beaten in the back of a pick-up truck while he was handcuffed.

He was so severely beaten his leg had to be amputated.

He was sexually assaulted with a police baton.

The incident sparked an international outcry with Amnesty International and former All Black Joe Rokocoko speaking out.

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Fiji police at the time said they would investigate what happened, but over a year later no arrests and no explanation has been forthcoming.

- Stuff

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