Fiji lawyer found guilty of contempt

Richard Naidu (holding papers) at the Suva court complex. File photo.

A prominent Fiji lawyer, Richard Naidu, has been found guilty of contempt and scandalising the court by the country’s High Court, in a case that has attracted international scrutiny.

Judge Justice Jude Nanayakkara handed down the judgement on Tuesday afternoon.

Fiji’s Attorney General, Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum brought the case against Naidu after a post to the former’s Facebook page noted that a court judgement had used the word “injection” instead of ‘injunction’ and referenced Fiji’s vaccination campaign.

The Attorney-General, who did not testify at any time during the proceedings despite the defence’s attempts to have him appear, claimed Naidu’s social media post was malicious and invited others to mock the judiciary.

He brought the case more than four months after the original post.

Fiji’s national election is set for December 14 and Naidu has been a consistently fierce critic of the incumbent Fiji First government. It had been speculated that he would stand as a candidate for the opposition National Federation Party prior to the contempt case being brought against him.

Amnesty International and CIVICUS has earlier criticised the proceedings, with Amnesty saying the prosecution violated the right to freedom of expression, was inconsistent with international human rights law, and “an excessive and politically motivated response to pointing out a spelling error.”

Sentencing has been set for January 5, 2023.