PFF, Rarotonga, COOK ISLANDS: The arrest and detention of Fiji’s trade union movement leaders Daniel Urai and Felix Anthony continues the harassment and intimidation of citizens by the military regime, regional media freedom monitoring network the Pacific Freedom Forum, PFF.
Fiji Trades Union Congress (FTUC) president Daniel Urai was arrested on October 29, 2011 at Nadi International Airport after returning from the Commonwealth Heads of Government events in Australia, a move condemned as politically motivated by Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd.
Urai was held incommunicado at an undisclosed location for eight days until he appeared in the Suva Magistrates' Court on Monday, November 7, 2011. He has been charged with "urging political violence” under the regime’s Crimes Decree. Bail was initially refused and he was granted release on bail with curfew and other conditions on Wednesday afternoon Fiji time.
“It took more than a week of being held without charge, with no contact from family members, friends, colleagues, and legal support, for the regime to decide what to do with Urai. This deplorable situation raises obvious questions over charges being concocted out of politically motivated harassment. There just isn't enough information to suggest a timely process of evidence and investigation has taken place prior to his arrest,” says PFF chair Titi Gabi of Papua New Guinea.
“Pacific communities outside of Fiji continue to freely express ideas and opinions which may be critical of their governments, free from the fear of being ‘disappeared’ from their loved ones at a moment’s notice. We urge the regime to cease the arbitrary detention of selected citizens on sham charges, and repeat our call for lifting of the Public Emergency Regulations of April 2009 and the Media Decree which should have replaced the PER when it was introduced last November.” says Gabi.
“We are also concerned at news that FTUC general secretary Felix Anthony has also been made incommunicado and has yet to face charges since being ‘detained’ by the military at his office in Lautoka on Friday, November 4 and taken to Suva under heavy guard the following morning.”
"The right to meet in public places, to organise, to share opinions, ideas and express them no matter how critical or unpopular they may be, is the most obvious sign that our Pacific leaders have come of age and accept criticism as an essential part of public life, “says PFF co-chair Monica Miller of American Samoa.
“As the regime leaders continue to target citizens who express ideas and opinions that do not support their views, a culture of compliance and silence is being manipulated and misrepresented to future generations as the 'Fijian' way. The 'disappearing' of citizens held without charge or court appearance, rendered incommunicado by the military, is a madness that Pacific leaders must strongly condemn."ENDS
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