Former Fiji PM Frank Bainimarama jailed for a year

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Fiji’s ex-Prime Minister, Frank Bainimarama, has been sentenced to a year in jail for trying to stop a corruption investigation. Here’s what happened:

Bainimarama, 70, was a big political figure in the Pacific Islands, leading Fiji for over 15 years until he lost in 2022. He was known internationally for his efforts on climate change.

After a court ruling on Thursday, Bainimarama was taken to prison in handcuffs. Last month, he was found guilty of trying to stop a police inquiry into fraud at the University of South Pacific. Prosecutors said he asked a friend, the former Police Commissioner, to end the investigation into financial wrongdoing at the university, like giving staff bonuses.

Even though Bainimarama said he was innocent, the court in April said he and the police chief had used their power to stop the university investigation.

In April, Bainimarama was not sent to jail, and his conviction wasn’t put on record. But top prosecutors challenged this decision.

Now, the high court overturned the earlier ruling and gave both men jail time. Qiliho, the former Police Commissioner, got two years in prison.

Supporters of Bainimarama sang hymns outside the court, and politicians praised the verdict.

Political experts have noted that the timing of the legal cases against Bainimarama is interesting. He’s facing allegations of political wrongdoing after losing the 2022 election to Sitiveni Rabuka.

Last year, when he was in the opposition, Bainimarama got suspended from parliament for three years for criticizing the new government in a speech.

Despite the legal troubles, his political party FijiFirst is sticking with him. They say he’ll still lead them, and they plan to deal with the issues in the next election in 2026.

Bainimarama, a former military leader, took control of Fiji in 2006 in a peaceful coup. He then won elections in 2014 and 2018 to stay in power.

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