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Fiji lawyers urge judges to resist ouster

[JURIST] Members of Fiji's Law Society [organization website] on Tuesday called for deposed judges to remain in office and resist the current military regime's attempts to oust them. Judiciary confusion and political upheaval have continued in Fiji as lawyers refused to accept [Australian report] the dismantling of the government by President Ratu Josefa Iloilo [official profile]. Working with prime minister and head of Fijian military Commodore Josaia Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama [BBC profile], the military-backed government on Tuesday arrested [Australian report] law society president Dorsami Naidu. The turmoil comes days after the Court of Appeal held that Iloilo's 2006 appointment of Bainimarama as prime minister was unconstitutional [JURIST report], prompting Iloilo to dismantle the government and suspend the constitution [JURIST report]. Fiji, a member of the Commonwealth [official website], now faces expulsion from that body and regional groups. In anticipation of civilian unrest, the military has been given permission to shoot civilians [UPI report], and a 30-day period of emergency has been put in place. The central bank has tightened exchange rates [Reuters report] as well, with the head offices reportedly being held by security forces. Bainimarama and Iloilo have promised to hold elections in 2014.

The turmoil has built since Iloilo reappointed Bainimarama prime minister [JURIST report] over the weekend. After Friday's announcement of the suspension of the constitution, US State Department [official website] spokesman Richard Aker criticized [press release] Iloilo's decision, saying it was a step backwards for the country, and called on Fiji to continue to recognize rights outlined in the suspended constitution. Iloilo's government has defended the 2006 coup as legal [JURIST report] because Iloilo had reserve powers that permitted him to dismiss the government and appoint new leaders, and he had given his permission to Bainimarama. Two days after the coup in December 2006, an interim prime minister had said that the coup was technically "illegal" [JURIST report] but necessary.

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