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Coup leader Speight's lawyer in own legal strife

SUVA, Fiji -- The would-be defense counsel for Fijian coup leader George Speight is facing his own legal problems following charges of felony, perverting the course of justice and producing false documents.

The Fiji Post reports Navin Naidu was arrested Tuesday night and is expected to appear before the Suva Magistrate's Court Thursday to face the charges.

Naidu, a Singapore-born ethnic Indian, came to Fiji from the United States to defend Speight against a charge of treason related to events between May 1 and July 31 last year.

This includes the 56 days when now deposed ethnic-Indian prime minister Mahendra Chaudhry and his government were held hostage, the suspension of the constitution, looting and rioting in the city of Suva and the forced resignation of president Ratu Sir Kamisese Mara.

Naidu applied for admission to the Fiji bar in order to defend Speight, but this application was rejected by Chief Justice, Sir Timoci Tuivaga.

It has been alleged that Naidu has never been awarded a law degree from the University of London, as he claims.

A letter from the university earlier this week says the certificate Naidu presented as his degree bears little resemblance to a genuine University of London certificate and contains discrepancies in wording, format and content.

Fresh elections in August

The university also says they have no record of a student named Navin Naidu.

Speight, and his brother Jim, have now been given four weeks to find a lawyer to defend themselves. The treason charge carries a potential death penalty.

Speight has repeatedly said his coup was aimed at reining in the economic and political power of Fiji's ethnic Indians, a minority of 44 percent in the Pacific Island nation's 840,000 population.

The coup toppled Fiji's first ethnic Indian-led government.

The country is now being run by a military-installed caretaker government made up almost exclusively of indigenous Fijians. New elections are scheduled for late August.

• Fijilive

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