Fiji to Abolish Death Penalty

SUVA, Fiji, FEB. 13, 2002 ( Fiji is abolishing the death penalty for treason in advance of a trial of 13 people accused in a coup, BBC reported.

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Coup leader George Speight and 12 cohorts are due in court Monday on charges relating to their armed occupation of Parliament in May 2000. Their action led to the ouster of Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his Cabinet.

Capital punishment in this South Pacific island nation of 844,000 was scrapped for most crimes in 1967, but was retained for treason and piracy.

Under the current law, Speight and his co-conspirators would face a mandatory death sentence if convicted. The abolition of the death penalty is expected to be ratified before verdicts are handed down.

Attorney General Qoriniasi Bale on Tuesday denied accusations that the change was designed to appease Speight. «This government is very firmly of the view that the death penalty should go,» Bale said.

Capital punishment has not been used since the mid-1960s when a convicted murderer was hanged.

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