Former Fiji prime minister arrested

Mahendra Chaudhry detained for holding public meeting in violation of military government's emergency regulations.

    Bainimarama seized power in a 2006 coup, imposing emergency regulations banning public meetings [AFP]

    Fiji's military government has arrested Mahendra Chaudhry, a former prime minister, for allegedly violating public emergency regulations.

    Chaudhry was taken into custody with five other people on Friday and is expected to face court on Monday.

    The news website Fijivillage said Chaudhry was detained for allegedly holding public meetings, which have been outlawed.

    The site also said that police had not yet publicly revealed the charges against Chaudhry, the leader of the opposition Fiji Labour Party.

    "[Chaudhry] is a little puzzled by this one...Under the many regime rules, he could be charged with many things," Michael Field, South Pacific correspondent for Fairfax Media, told Al Jazeera.

    "He represents a latent force that can overthrow [the military government] or even perhaps win a general election if and when one is held," Field said.

    He added that Chaudhry was acting in his capacity as secretary of the National Farmers Union when he was arrested.

    Voice of dissent

    He is one of the main opposition voices in Fiji, where the media is heavily censored and political parties cannot issue statements seen as destabilising Voreqe Bainimarama's government.

    Chaudhry became Fiji's first ethnic Indian leader when elected prime minister in 1999 but was overthrown one year later in a coup led by Fijian nationalist George Speight.

    Fiji has been wracked by political instability over the last 20 years.

    Relations have long been fraught between Fijians and ethnic Indians, who control much of the economy.

    Bainimarama, who seized power in a 2006 coup, imposed emergency regulations banning public meetings when he abrogated the constitution in April last year.

    He subsequently scrapped plans for an election, saying conditions were not right - but promised to hold a vote in 2014.

    In July, Chaudhry appeared in court on several charges unrelated to his latest alleged offence, including money laundering and tax evasion.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and Agencies


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