Fiji activist sentenced to prison for reprinting report
Updated 1 hour 27 minutes ago
A Fiji human rights activist has been sentenced to a suspended prison term for reprinting part of a report which contains criticism of Fiji’s judiciary.
Reverend Akuila Yabaki, head of the Citizens’ Constitutional Forum, has been sentenced to three months jail, suspended for 12 months, for an article published in the organisation’s Tutaka newsletter in April 2012.
The article quoted London-based Law Society Charity’s 2011 report, “Fiji: The Rule of Law Lost”, which questions the independence of Fiji’s judiciary.
Nigel Dodds, Law Society Charity chair and author of the report, has told Radio Australia’s Pacific Beat the sentence is being used to silence Reverend Yabaki in the lead up to Fiji’s elections.
“The sentence is really quite clever. It’s what I would call ‘light touch’ oppression,” he said.
“By sentencing him to a relatively short but suspended sentence of imprisonment, which is going to last for a year, it’s effectively silencing him and CCF until the elections.”
Fiji’s elections are scheduled to be held before September next year.
Mr Dodds says the prosecution against Reverend Yabaki for the report’s republication is ill-founded.
“Their report was simply a summary of what I had said with no comment beyond what was in it,” he said.
“Certainly the report is at my door and should be my responsibility.”
He says the prosecution has been a lost opportunity for Fiji’s judiciary to demonstrate independence from government.
“Unfortunately they’ve failed in that responsibility,” he said.
Mr Dodds says the country’s judiciary has been undermined since the dismissal of all judges in 2009.
“There is a difficulty over tenure and there is by-and-large a problem in relation to international perception, and I would say the reality of the independence of the judiciary.”