Edward Rooney is the Regional News Editor at NZME. News Service.

Auckland barrister wins drawn-out Fijian human rights case

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Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams, Mere Samisoni and local counsel Filimoni Vosorongo are delighted the charges against Dr Samisoni will not be pursued. Photo: Supplied
Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams, Mere Samisoni and local counsel Filimoni Vosorongo are delighted the charges against Dr Samisoni will not be pursued. Photo: Supplied

Charges have finally been dropped against a businesswoman and grandmother who was ousted from Fiji parliament by a military coup 10 years ago and charged with inciting violence almost five years ago.

The case was being defended by prominent Queen's Counsel Sir Peter Williams until his death last year and had been picked up by his widow Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams.

Dr Mere Samisoni, 74 was a member of parliament in Fiji's last elected government which was deposed by military coup in 2006. In early 2012, she was charged by the regime with incitement to political violence.

Following a "voir dire" hearing before a trial magistrate at Suva on Wednesday, the prosecuting State had reassessed it position and announced it would not be proceeding against Dr Samisoni.

A "nolle prosequi" was granted on Wednesday morning by Magistrate Ratu Vili, meaning the State would not be prosecuting the case.

Appearing at the Suva Magistrates Court, New Zealand based barrister, Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams said: " I am very happy this case had finally come to its rightful conclusion for Mere Samisoni. Dr Samisoni had literally been to hell and back since charged in 2012."

Lady Heeni said the case had wider significance than the individuals involved.

" The legal grounds raised at the voir dire hearing were important from a human rights perspective and the point of view of the administration of justice in Fiji."

The grounds raised at the hearing included:

* A lack of electronic recording at police station when statements were taken by police officer

* Dr Samisoni being held in police custody for five days in police cells without proper legal authority

* The long periods without a lawyer whilst accused persons were held in custody

* The appalling conditions and lack of hygiene in police cells

* Breaching judges rules in cross examination when police took statements from accused

* Not showing co accused statements to accused.

"For Fijian democracy to be more effective and not seen as lip service there must be big improvements," said Lady Heeni.

Following the Bainimarama led military coup of 2006 various military decrees came into force.

Dr Samisoni was charged under a military decree violation of "urging political violence".

She had enlisted Sir Peter Williams QC and Lady Heeni Phillips-Williams - who also defended businessman Ballu Khan after his arrest in 2007 - to act for her.

Lady Heeni said her late husband "Sir Peter would be smiling with this wonderful outcome.

"He had always described Mere Samisoni, a former politician, a wonderful woman and he had been determined to finish off her case for her."

She said Dr Samison's health has suffered through the drawn-out ordeal.

"We are over the moon," Lady Heeni said. "She's been today coughing but it didn't stop us from having a celebratory drink."

- The Aucklander

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