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Fiji coup leader suspends top judge and magistrate

[JURIST] Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama [BBC profile], the Fijian military commander who led a military coup [JURIST report] against former Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase [Wikipedia profile] early last month, has suspended the activities of Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki and Chief Magistrate Naomi Lomaiviti pending investigations into possible corruption in the judiciary. Bainimarama said that the suspensions were necessary in order to determine the nature and extent of "questionable activities," which Bainimarama has said have been prevalent in the Fijian judiciary since the 2000 coup [BBC report]. According to Bainimarama, the judiciary will function independently until power can be restored to a civilian interim government, after full inquiries into mishandlings of the current one. AFP has more.

The Fiji coup was carried out after Qarase refused to stop proposed legislation that would have given coastal land ownership to the indigenous population of Fiji, rather than use it as a region for tourism, and also would have given pardons to individuals who plotted a coup against the government in 2000. Qarase has accused Bainimarama of "raping" the country's constitution [text]. December's coup is the fourth coup [BBC backgrounder] in the nation during the past 14 years.

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