Fiji: Former Fijian prime minister Laisenia Qarase jailed for a year for corruption

Fiji's Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe "Frank" Bainimarama addresses the 65th General Assembly at the United Nations headquarters in New York, September 27, 2010.

Fiji's former prime minister Laisenia Qarase, the country's last democratically elected leader, has been sentenced to 12 months jail on Friday after being found guilty of corruption. 

Critics of Fiji's military government have slammed the sentence — which means Qarase will not be able to contest elections in 2014 — as politically motivated.

Qarase, 71, was elected in 2000 but ousted in a military coup in 2006, when Commodore Frank Bainimarama, Fiji’s current leader, took over.

He was found guilty Tuesday on nine charges of abusing his office and failing to perform his duties as a public servant some 20 years ago, in the early 1990s.

The Associated Press cited court documents as saying that he failed to disclose a private investment interest in three companies that he was helping to manage in an official capacity.

Prosecutors said he put the interests of his family and home village before the public in regards to one of them, a government investment company called Fijian Holdings, according to London's Daily Telegraph.

Judge Priyantha Fernando ordered the custodial sentence, saying that the offense was a breach of public trust and that all officials were accountable for their actions. 

The Telegraph points out that another former Fiji prime minister, Mahendra Chaudhry, is due to face trial soon for allegedly breaching foreign exchange laws. 

Australia and New Zealand this week softened their hardline stance to Fiji's military-backed regime.

According to the Fairfax media, Australia this week restored diplomatic ties with Suva for the first time since 2009 as a reward for democratic reforms.

Bainimarama's military regime banished the last envoy, accusing him of interfering in local politics.

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