Suva: Former Fiji prime minister Mahendra Pal Chaudhry has pleaded not guilty to holding an illegal meeting in defiance of laws imposed by the military regime.
Chaudhry and five others, Sanjeet Maharaj, Ganga Dharan, Gajraj Singh, Abhay Raj Singh and Shammi Kapoor, reportedly appeared in Rakiraki Magistrates` Court on Wednesday charged with unlawful assembly under the public emergency regulation.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Magistrate Usaia Ratuvili adjourned the case till November 11 and ordered them to report to their nearest police station every Wednesday. The accused were taken into custody last Friday.
On Monday, the group appeared before Magistrate Sadiq Faizal Koya, who released them on bail before setting himself aside from the case saying that he was very familiar with Chaudhry.
After Monday’s hearing, a spokeswoman for Australian Foreign Affairs Minister, Kevin Rudd, said the government would be monitoring Chaudhry`s case “closely”.
"The government remains concerned about the use of the public emergency regulations by the regime, including to restrict freedom of assembly, and will continue to monitor the case closely," the paper quoted the spokeswoman, as saying.
In 2000, Chaudhry was deposed as Fiji`s Prime Minister in a nationalist coup after he was held hostage for 56 days. In July, he appeared in court on money laundering and tax evasion charges.