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Fiji appeals court hears ousted PM's challenge to 2006 coup

[JURIST] The Court of Appeal of Fiji on Tuesday began considering a challenge to the legitimacy of the sitting government brought by ousted Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. Qarase appeals from a November High Court decision [text, PDF; JURIST report] holding that President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile] had the authority to name new leaders after a 2006 military coup [JURIST report] removed Qarase from power. Qarase brought the original suit [JURIST report] in 2007, arguing that the coup was illegal because it supplanted his democratically elected government, and asked that he be reinstated. The High Court found that the President acted in line with the country's constitution [text] and characterized the appointment of new officials as a legitimate retention of power pending new elections.

In September, Qarase made additional charges that current prime minister Commodore Frank Bainimarama [BBC profile] and others who participated in the December 2006 military coup had committed treason [Fiji Daily Post report] by ousting Qarase's democratically elected government. Later that month, Qarase tried to make a statement [JURIST report] to police regarding the allegations, but they said they would not investigate the charges. Less than two days after the coup, a previous interim prime minister installed by the military characterized the coup as "illegal" [JURIST report], but defended it as necessary. Qarase's case was heard in the High Court by a three-judge panel led by Acting Chief Justice Anthony Gates, who was appointed [press release] after Bainimarama suspended former Chief Justice Daniel Fatiaki [JURIST report].

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