Preliminary ruling finds Fiji 4 not guilty of sedition

In this Nov. 6, 2013 photo, Fiji Times newspaper editor Fred Wesley stands in the newsroom in Suva, Fiji. Wesley was sentenced to six months in jail,

FILE - In this Sept. 17, 2014 file photo, Fiji's military ruler Voreqe Bainimarama arrives at a polling station to cast his vote in a national electio

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — An opinion writer and three newspaper executives in Fiji have been found not guilty of sedition in a preliminary ruling, although a judge has yet to make a final decision in the case.

Three assessors on Friday also ruled the Fiji Times company was not guilty. Under the Fiji judicial system, the judge can chose to either follow or ignore the findings of the assessors. The judge adjourned the court on Friday, saying he planned to issue his verdict Tuesday.

The case has major implications for press freedom in the South Pacific nation. It centers on an opinion piece which accused Muslims of historic crimes.

The column ran in the Nai Lalakai, a small, weekly indigenous-language newspaper published by the Fiji Times.