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Fiji's attorney general won't face charges over 1987 bombings

The Guardian - Thu Jan 14 00:54

Fiji’s public prosecutor has dismissed a case against the country’s attorney general, saying there is insufficient evidence to charge him in relation to two bombings in Suva more than 30 years ago.

A six-month police investigation into Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum’s alleged role in the political bombings did not produce sufficient evidence for the public prosecutor to press charges.

The high-profile case against one of Fiji’s most powerful political figures gripped the nation after Veronica Malani, an indigenous Fijian woman, lodged an official complaint against him in July last year.

But Fiji’s director of public prosecutions (DPP), Christopher Pryde, “has decided that no charges will be laid”, a statement from the DPP’s office said.

The police investigation file was sent to the DPP for an assessment of the evidence gathered against Sayed-Khaiyum.

“Following a review of the police docket, it is our opinion that there is insufficient credible or reliable evidence to support any criminal charges being laid against the attorney eneral,” Pryde said, “therefore, the docket has been returned to police with the instruction not to charge and no further action is required.”

Malani, her father – the former parliamentarian Ratu Filimone Ralogaivau – and her brother Ratu Benedito Ralogaivau – a Melbourne resident and Victoria police officer – alleged that their family was a direct target of two politically motivated bombing attacks, involving Sayed-Khaiyum, during the height of the 1987 military coups in Suva.

As a result, Malani’s mother suffered serious injuries, and a bystander died during one of the attacks. In their police statements, Malani and Ratu Benedito, who were 14 and 13 years old at the time respectively, claimed that they had identified Sayed-Khaiyum as the attacker out of one of the two suspects who were arrested by the criminal investigations department.

Police had completed their initial investigations and sent the evidence to the DPP’s office on 13 November last year. The brief of evidence was returned to police for further investigation later that month.

On 23 November, Sayed-Khaiyum visited the criminal investigations department to provide his statement.

Sayed-Khaiyum did not comment publicly on the investigation against him, but the threat of prosecution hanging over one of the government’s most influential figures was a significant distraction for the government of the prime minister, Frank Bainimarama.

In addition to being attorney general, Sayed-Khaiyum is the secretary general of the ruling FijiFirst party, and is minister for justice, aviation, communication, climate change, economy, the public service, and anti-corruption: roles that give him enormous authority over government policy.

Malani said she was disappointed by the DPP’s decision not to lay charges. “The scales of justice have now been tipped and ordinary citizens like me are severely suffering from access to justice and basic human rights,” she said.