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March 10, 2008 | by  | in Features |
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Activists in the Ureweras: An update on Operation 8

So here’s an update, for anyone who didn’t get enough of the “Urewera 17” Operation 8 story last year. On 5 March 2008 up to 19 arrested activists will be appearing, in Auckland District Court. As of this week, they are not expecting that the predepositions hearings will go ahead, since three more Tuhoe activists were arrested in the Bay of Plenty on Tuesday 19 February 2008.

Lawyers for the accused have received three more boxes of evidential disclosure very recently, too close to the hearing date for effective scrutiny, so the Police have effectively handed the Defence a hospital pass, ensuring that the hearings will be adjourned for at least another two months. There will only be consideration of bail conditions and appeals for continuation of image and name suppression orders currently standing.

So why are there more people being arrested, more charges being laid?

To answer that, I’d have to go back to the original arrests on 15-17 October 2007, which were conducted under the Arms Act 1983, and, spuriously, under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 (the TSA). Both of these pieces of legislation allow unlimited search and seizure, and in the case of the TSA, remand in custody without charges laid, which no other legislation in New Zealand currently allows.

The Solicitor-General’s office ruled that the TSA could not be applied to these cases on 9 November, leading to bail being granted to all who were remanded in custody. An amendment to the Act was just being passed through its final readings in Parliament. Members of Tuhoe and Anarchist support groups were in the gallery that day, to hear Keith Locke, Rodney Hide and Hone Harawira speak against the hastily redrawn amendments. This amendment subsequently passed.

With the TSA application failed, the Police Anti-Terror Unit, headed by Assistant Police Commissioner John White, were left holding a stack of ‘evidence’ garnered from tapping landlines, mobile phones, text messages, emails and private motor vehicles; none of which responded to the charges they were legally bound to lay under the Arms Act, under which the search warrants were produced.

Police claim they are looking for a sawn-off shotgun and an SKS or AK47 semi-automatic rifle. However, arms have only been found in one out of 17 cases, and the arms found were unlicensed hunting guns, long held in the owner’s family. Assistant Commissioner John White has a lot of work ahead of him to convince anyone of the need to continue with Operation 8. He is convinced that there are terrorists to be found in Aotearoa; and given that his unit’s staff have been flown (expensively) to the USA to be trained in the FBI’s best indoctrination centre, his unit is full of officers who firmly believe that NZ is going to be the scene of similar events to those occurring in the USA.

That the cross-cultural assumptions inherent in this argument are unfounded is one concern; that our internal policing policy is being set by US agencies in Washington, DC reveals the American desire to globalise their own anti-terror techniques, and is a much greater concern.

During the period of the activists’ incarceration, mass demonstrations were held in Queen St, central Christchurch, and through the CBD in Wellington, as well as in other centres. From 12-14 November a hikoi from the Tuhoe country to Wellington raised the profile of Tuhoe grievances, including a visit to Pipitea marae in Thorndon Quay.

Fundraising and practical support for those arrested and their families were the early focus for supporters. Four months on, spreading information and communicating with “mainstream (Pakeha) New Zealand” about the issues involved in Te Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe, and Tino Rangatiratanga generally, are taking an equal, if not higher, priority.

To begin with, as news of servers confiscated filtered back, Aotearoa IMC were the only activist website still running, and most of the early reports were hosted by Aotearoa Indymedia. Scoop’s editors were also running stories in opposition to the mainstream media, and presenting more than just ‘leaks’ from the police prosecutors. Profiles of the arrested activists, written from biographical information supplied by the activists and their friends, were published on www.scoop.co.nz.

Updates from the latest day in Court are available at:
http:// indymedia.org.nz/newswire/display/75005/index.php

As at the end of 5 March, some bail conditions had been relaxed for all defendants, so that only once weekly reporting to the police station was required, and non-association orders for Valerie Morse and a 23-year-old musician have been removed. One other defendant has had his curfew dismissed.

There has been huge support from musicians, many of whom hail from the Ureweras or Ngati Porou’s East Cape area. A collaboration to produce a 2-CD album, Tu Kotahi – Freedom Fighters, has seen the first product marketed with both anarchist and Mana Motuhake o Tuhoe labelling. This is provides ongoing funds for legal fees and support of activists and their dependants. Waitangi Day saw more protests around Tino Rangatiratanga issues at Waitangi and many other locations. Auckland and Wellington saw small but vocal protests at the Council-run public events.

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Comments (3)

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  1. Felicia Jollygoodfellow says:

    Great article – You Rock Kerry!

  2. Kerry says:

    Why thank you my dear,
    as I have no idea who so kindly and pseudonymously is praising me..
    ;-)

    afemme possee reprezent!

  3. Liberation says:

    Cheers for the good work!

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