By Nanise Volau
The Fiji Times’ trio of its publisher Hank Arts, its editor in chief Fred Wesley and vernacular newspaper editor Anare Ravula are free men today after the Suva High Court upheld last Friday’s not guilty verdict of the assessors and let the men go.
Also acquitted is letter writer Josaia Waqabaca who like the three newspaper executives was under trial for sedition related charges in relation to a letter Waqabaca had penned which was published in the Fiji Times’s Fijian weekly, Nai Lalakai.
Off the hook as well is the Fiji Times newspaper.
The High Court judge, Justice Thushara Rajasinghe said he agreed with the assessors’ opinion which had returned not guilty verdicts on Publisher Arts on the charge of publishing a seditious article in their Fijian language newspaper, Nai Lalakai. He also upheld their verdicts that Nai Lalakai editor Ravula and Fiji Times editor-in-chief Wesley not guilty of having aided and abetted the publication of a seditious article.
"I do not find any cogent reason to disregard the unanimous opinion of not guilty given by the three assessors," Rajasinghe said in his judgement.
"I find that the prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that each of these accused is guilty for the offence which they have been charged."
He said the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts that the four accused plus The Fiji Times company had committed sedition.
"The prosecution has failed to prove beyond reasonable doubts that The Fiji Times published the article with the intention to promote the feelings of ill will and hostility between Muslims and non-Muslims in Fiji," he added.
The four have been on trial in the Suva High Court for the past two weeks over a letter Waqabaca had sent and got published in the Nai Lalakai newspaper two years ago.