Last edited: April 16, 2005

Australia Lodges Protest over Gay Tourist’s Arrest in Fiji, April 15, 2005

By Peter Hacker Sydney, Australia Bureau

CANBERRA—The Australian government Friday filed an official protest with the Fijian government over the arrest and conviction of an Australian tourist on gay sex charges.

Maxwell McCoskar, a retired Australian university professor who was on holiday in Fiji, was arrested with a local man, Dhirendra Nadan as they had sex in a home rented by McCoskar. Police had been summoned by a suspicious neighbor.

Last week McCoskar and Dhirendra were each sentenced to two years in prison. The men have appealed their sentences and are out on bail but McCoskar has been ordered not to leave the island.

In its official complaint to the Fijian government Australia says authorities in Fiji did not advise the Australian High Commission of McCosker’s arrest and trial, effectively denying him consular access—a violation of international law.

“We are concerned this may have prejudiced Mr McCosker’s rights in the trial, in particular his right to legal representation,” a spokesperson for the Australian government said Friday.

“This will be a matter for Mr McCosker’s defense team to take up in his appeal hearing.”

The government’s complaint also notes that neither man was permitted to have a lawyer present at their trial.

McCosker has received consular assistance since his conviction, the spokesperson said.

Both men now have lawyers. Their appeal says the convictions were unconstitutional. Gay and lesbians have protections under Fiji’s 1998 Constitution, but old former colonial laws banning gay sex remain on the books. Those laws provide for sentences of up to 14 years for gay sex.

Earlier this week, Fiji’s Prime Minister said he had no intention of repealing the sodomy laws.

In a radio interview Prime Minister, Laisenia Qarase said that the Bible clearly states that homosexuality is a sin and Fiji’s law reflected that. He also accused the men of making pornography.

The sentences have drawn sharp criticism from international human rights groups. On Monday Australian gays demonstrated in front of the Fijian consulate in Sydney.

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