Suva : A Fiji appeal court threw out a corruption case against the Pacific island nation’s main opposition leader Sitiveni Rabuka on Monday, clearing the way for him to contest Wednesday’s election.
Rabuka, head of the SODELPA Party, had been campaigning with the threat of disqualification hanging over him if he was convicted of making false financial declarations.
But the High Court in Suva backed a magistrates’ court decision to acquit the former prime minister, dismissing an appeal from the Fiji Independent Commission Against Corruption.
In a judgement handed down Monday, chief judge Anthony Gates said “essential elements (of the case) were not proved, the appeal fails and must be dismissed”.
He also awarded Rabuka costs of FJ 4,000 ( 1,900).
SODELPA supporters in the courthouse were jubilant at the verdict and Rabuka said he felt “great and getting better”.
“I want to thank all of them (supporters)”, he said.
Rabuka led two coups in the 1980s and served as prime minister from 1992 to 1999.
He is challenging the ruling FijiFirst Party, whose leader Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama led his own bloodless coup in 2006 and ruled by decree until winning a 2014 election.
Bainimarama is favourite to retain office, with a recent poll putting his approval rating at 68 percent compared with Rabuka’s 24 percent.