Urewera four – fight the imprisonments of Iti and Kemara

Byron Clark

The crown has decided not to retry the Urewera 4 on the charge of Participation in an Organised Criminal Group. The group were originally threatened with charges under new terrorism laws after being arrested in a series of raids on October 15, 2007. 13 others were arrested but charges against them have been dropped. The only charges the state could make stick were minor firearms offenses against Tame Iti, Rangi Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

“The whole case should never have gone ahead.” Commented Ana Cocker from the October 15th Solidarity Group, adding that the firearms charges should also be thrown out. “The charge of Participation was laid specifically in order that the crown could use the illegally obtained evidence. The crown needed to justify Operation 8 and their invasion and spying on Te Urewera, by bringing convictions at any cost” said Crooker “Nothing in this case has been about so-called justice, it is all about criminalising dissent and halting aspirations for Tuhoe autonomy.”

On May 24 Iti, Kemara, Signer and Bailey were sentenced on the firearms charges. Signer and Bailey were sentenced to 9 months home detention while Iti and Kemara were sentenced to more than 2 years in prison. Along with other people and organisations we support their immediate release.

Drop the charges! Partial victory for Urewera 4 defendants

Chalking at Queer Avengers protest against media bigotry

On the 20th of March, the jury finally reached a verdict on firearms charges for the remaining 4 Urewera defendants. All were found guilty and not-guilty of a range of firearms charges. There was no resolution to the far more serious charge of belonging to an organised criminal group – on evidence that was gathered under “Terrorism” laws, with no terrorism charges laid.

Under various charges, and at diminishing returns for the Crown, the Urewera defendants have been harrassed under successive Labour and National governments. A press release by the October 15th Solidarity Group noted the bungling inconsistency of the Crown’s attack, and went on to explain the political basis of it, quoting Valerie Morse whose charges were dropped last year:

Operation 8 was a multimillion dollar police operation designed to harass Tuhoe and political activists. After six years, the crown has secured a few firearms convictions based on illegal evidence. This whole episode reveals the sad face of a racist country determined to quash Maori aspirations for sovereignty.

“We will fight for the freedom of our comrades. We will not cease. Ever. Ka whawhai tonu matou. Ake! Ake! Ake! [Read more…]

Operation 8 trial draws to a close: Drop The Charges

After nearly 5 years of painstaking legal wrangling, and over 100 years of attacks on Tuhoe, the Operation 8 trial is finally due to start in February.  Only four, of the original 18 defendants, will be facing charges.

The raids of October 15th 2007, targeting Tuhoe and radical supporters, are etched into national consciousness. Police officers blockaded the roads leading into the Ureweras, with squad cars and traffic cones along the historic line of confiscation. They broke windows and smashed down doors at Wellington’s 128 Radical Social Centre.

They used terror legislation to justify these attacks, but did not charge any of the defendants with terrorism. Their tactics were designed to demonstrate the power of the capitalist state, installed and maintained through confiscation. Local and global solidarity actions showed the defendants they were not alone.

Tuhoe never signed the Treaty of Waitangi. Their radicalism, embodied particularly in Tame Iti, consists of their demand for self-determination in a territory where they comprise the majority.

On February 13th, the four remaining defendants will face trial at the Auckland High Court, and supporters will mobilise to conduct solidarity actions.