Fiji Arrests 63 for Inciting Political Unrest

Fiji Arrests 63 for Inciting Political UnrestFiji Arrests 63 for Inciting Political Unrest

Dozens of people have been arrested in Fiji after authorities said they were trying to incite political upheaval or violence, saying some were involved with a paramilitary-style training group while others were attempting to set up a sovereign Christian state.

In a wave of arrests that has gathered pace this month, 63 people face charges that  carry maximum sentences of either 10 years or 15 years in prison, AP reported.

The arrests come less than a year after the Pacific nation of 900,000 held landmark elections which many hoped would usher in an era of stable democracy following years of political turmoil and a series of military coups.

Some residents have accused Fiji’s Prime Minister Voreqe Bainimarama of using the arrests to silence political dissent. Bainimarama seized control of Fiji in a 2006 coup and ruled as an autocrat before his Fiji First party won last year’s popular vote.

Fiji’s Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions said 31 of those arrested were connected with the alleged paramilitary group while two groups of 16, from different parts of the main island of Viti Levu, were allegedly connected with the sovereign Christian state movement.

The group of 31 faces charges of sedition, which comes with a maximum seven-year sentence, and urging political violence, which comes with a 15-year maximum sentence. Of the 63 arrested, 16 have been released on bail while 47 remain in jail.

Lawyer Aman Ravindra-Singh, who is representing more than half of those arrested, said many have had their rights violated because they were thrown in jail without any credible evidence to back the charges.