Fiji ex-military head jailed

MICHAEL FIELD
Last updated 17:31 11/12/2013
Frank Bainimarama
DAVID WHITE/Fairfax NZ
LEADER: Fiji coup leader Frank Bainimarama.

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One of Fiji's military heads has been jailed for five years after being found guilty of plotting to overthrow Frank Bainimarama and planning to kill one of the stongman's main supporters.

One of the trio behind Bainimarama's 2006 coup, former Land Force commander Brigadier General Pita Driti, 55, was convicted over a plot to overthrow the prime minister in 2010.

He was alleged to have also plotted to have military-installed attorney-general Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum killed by Christmas 2010.

This afternoon, Fiji High Court Judge Paul Madigan sent Driti to jail for five years and ruled he would have to serve at least four years before parole.

He was to have stood trial with another senior military figure, Lieutenant Colonel Tevita Mara, who last year escaped from Fiji and was picked up at sea by a Tongan naval vessel.

A son of Fiji's founding president and prime minister, Ratu Sir Kamasese Mara, Mara is a relative of the Tongan royal family and is now on the staff of the royal palace.

Tonga and New Zealand have rejected Fiji's requests to send him back to Fiji.

Evidence heard before Judge Madigan last month claimed Driti plotted with two other top soldiers, Lieutenant Colonel Mohammed Aziz and Mara, and organised the plot believing Bainimarama had lost direction since his 2006 coup.

No action has been taken against Aziz since the trial.

Driti will find himself in the same jail as convicted traitor George Speight, who in 2000 seized Fiji's Parliament and held its politicians hostage for 56 days.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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