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Fiji ex-PM convicted of corruption

The High Court of Fiji [official website] on Tuesday found Laisenia Qarase [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the country's last democratically-elected prime minister, guilty of nine counts of corruption under the Fiji Penal Code [text]. Suva Court Justice Priyantha Fernando's ruling [Fiji Sun report] upholds the findings of a panel of assessors, convicting Qarase of six counts of abuse of office and three counts of discharge of duty related to his service as a company director during the 1990s. The ex-prime minister's crimes were committed prior to serving as Fiji's highest executive, and each charge carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison. Though out on bail, Qarase's sentencing [ABC News report] date is scheduled to be set on Wednesday.

Qarase was found guilty [Fiji Today report] by three assessors in the Suva High Court on July 30. His personal and political courtroom battles span several years, and his last case was in April 2009 when the Court of Appeal ruled that Fiji's appointment of a military government following a 2006 coup [JURIST report] was unconstitutional and had to be replaced by an interim prime minister until democratic elections could be held. There, the ousted prime minister Qarase brought the suit after a High Court found in November 2009 that then-president Ratu Josefa Iloilio had constitutional authority to appoint new leaders following the coup. In October 2008, the former Fijian figurehead challenged the legality of his ouster [JURIST report] by suing Commodore Frank Bainimarama [BBC profile] and others who participated in the December 2006 military coup.

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