Police in Fiji detained 14 members of a freemasons lodge for 24 hours after local villagers complained that they were practicing sorcery, newspapers reported Thursday.
Eight Australians and a New Zealander were among those jailed after their Tuesday night meeting was raided by police.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade confirmed 14 people, including eight Australians, were detained for convening a Masonic meeting without the right permit.
The New Zealand Herald quoted an unnamed police spokesman who said officers acted on reports from villagers of "strange goings-on" at the lodge.
The lodge secretary showed police a permit for the meeting but was told it was not relevant and the group was taken to the jailhouse and locked in cells, the Herald reported.
Australia's Canberra Times reported that Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama ordered their release but investigations were still continuing.
Emergency regulations imposed by Fiji's military regime allow police to detain people for up to 48 hours without charge.
The New Zealand newspaper said police in Lautoka seized Masonic paraphernalia including wands, compasses and a skull.
Justa Mason has an extended entry about this story, describing past Masonic "misunderstandings" on Fiji, and asking some pertinant philosophical questions about the larger issue of public perception. See it here.
And Charles McAlpin on Examiner.com has a piece explaining that those wacky ideas about sorcery aren't as uncommon around the world, or harmless, as you might think.