The Watchdog

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[October15thsolidarity-newsletter] NEWSLETTER No. TWENTYONE – 7 May 2011

Tena koutou,what a week! First, a wikileaks cable was released that has the NZ police on record “that they expect those charged to escape incarceration and likely to pay only a fine.” So millions of dollars down the drain for a few fines?

On Tuesday and Wednesday, the Supreme Court heard the defence lawyers’ challenges to the evidence. Everything about the hearing is suppressed. However, if this appeal is successful, then the Crown’s case would be lost. Observers noted that the hearing went very well for the defence. To finish off the week, the Supreme Court announced on Friday afternoon that it is giving leave to the defendants to appeal the judge alone decision. So in the coming weeks, there we will be a hearing over that outrageous decision to trial the 15 defendants in the first trial without a jury.

This puts a big question mark over the supposed start date of the trial: May 30. It is unlikely that the Supreme Court hearing will take place in time so the trial might well get delayed. We will keep you posted. There is more information on all of these developments in articles below.

Please stay in touch with us in the coming weeks. Keep reading, and follow October 15 Solidarity on Facebook. If you would like to make a donation to the cause – the bank account details are below. Oh, and don’t forget to go to the movies and watch the documentary ‘Operation 8: Deep in the



1. OPERATION 8: Deep in the Forest
2. 30 May 2011 – Trial supposed to start

1. OPERATION 8: Deep in the Forest

OPERATION 8: Deep in the Forest
Documentary film in the World Cinema Showcase Film Festival

Rialto Cinemas
Mon 9 May, 8.30 pm
Tue 10 May, 11.15 am
Book tickets through the venue.

Theatrical releases:
Wellington, Paramount – from 5 May –
Waiheke Cinema – from 5 May –
Martinborough, Circus Cinema – TBC
more cinemas coming soon… See for details.

Watch the trailer:

2. 30 May 2011 – Trial starts

The 12-week trial of 15 of the defendants will start on 30th May in the Auckland High Court. If you are keen to get involved with an Auckland solidarity group, please email us on

We haven’t confirmed a rally or protest march around the start of the trial. We will keep you posted.


1. “Urewera 18” to get fines? Time to drop the charges
2. Ruling in Urewera arms trial reserved
3. In the Supreme Court: Urewera 18
4. Paul Moon: A year on, no Tuhoe resolution in sight
5. Interrogating the terror

1. “Urewera 18” to get fines? Time to drop the charges

– Global Peace and Justice Auckland

“On the eve of the appeal to the Supreme Court on the admissibility of police evidence in the ‘Urewera 18’ case, Wikileaks have released a cable which says the New Zealand Police told the US Embassy in Wellington that they expected those accused would only get a fine rather than jail time should they be convicted,” said Global Peace and
Justice Auckland spokesperson Mike Treen.

“We can be sure that if the US Embassy received this information it was from either then Police minister Annette King or Police Commissioner Howard Broad. It is clear that the government and police have known for years that the whole case of ‘Operation 8’ is a beat up, and yet, for nearly four years the crown has thrown millions and
millions of dollars into this prosecution,” said Mike Treen.

“It is absolutely ridiculous that the police are telling the US embassy that convictions will result in fines while clogging up the Auckland High Court for three months and wasting millions of taxpayer dollars.

“The cops have misled the courts that this is a serious trial and that the laying of additional organised criminal gang charges against Tame Iti and 5 of the 18 co-accused make the case too confusing for a jury trial. At most this is a simple firearms trial that the police have hyped up in order to justify their brutal and terrifying raid on Ruatoki on October 15th 2007. New Zealanders should be asking why the cops are wasting millions of dollars prosecuting political activistsand used the Terrorism Suppression Act to secure up to only $5000 fines.

“It is time for the cops to drop the charges and bring the ridiculousand shambolic ‘Operation 8’ to an end,” concluded Mr. Treen.

View the cable:

2. Ruling in Urewera arms trial reserved –

With less than a month to go before the scheduled start of the first Urewera arms trial, the Supreme Court has reserved its decision on an appeal about evidence matters.

The content of the two-day hearing in Wellington this week is suppressed.

However, in an unusual move at the end of the hearing yesterday, Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias said the five-member Supreme Court might issue a minute later about when judgment would be expected.

The court does not normally indicate how long it will take to reach its decisions.

Also outstanding is a decision on whether the court will hear an appeal against the decision that the first of the two trials should be before a judge sitting without a jury.

The first trial, due to start on May 30 in the High Court at Auckland, is of 15 accused facing arms charges based on allegations from raids in the Ureweras in 2006 and 2007.

Some of the accused are also charged with taking part in an organised criminal group.

The second trial, due to be before a jury, is for three accused facing arms charges.

3. In the Supreme Court: Urewera 18

It is reported that the Supreme Court has decided to allow an appeal against the High Court decision to conduct the trial against 15 of the 18 accused by judge alone. The reasons for that decision remain suppressed but are thought to be based on the complexity of evidence.

Earlier this week the Supreme Court heard submissions on another aspect of the case from the lawyers for the accused and from the Crown prosecutor. Lawyers from the accused have been fighting to have the courts declare much or most of the police evidence inadmissable. It is a complicated case and the Supreme Court decision may not be known fora few weeks.

The decision on evidence could well affect any decision on whether totry by judge or jury.

4. Paul Moon: A year on, no Tuhoe resolution in sight –

The withdrawal of the deal to return iwi land has caused ongoing grief, writes Paul Moon.

History can be informative, instructive, and sometimes even illuminating. Cicero admonished us that without learning from history, we will continue as children, while Hegel viewed human history as the progress of the consciousness of freedom.

However, what the ghosts of history past did not mention was that history can also be frustrating, even painful.

This month marks a year since one such lesson was foisted on Tuhoe by the Crown in a saga that has dragged on intermittently for more than a century.

At the start of May last year, all the indications were that the Crown and Tuhoe were putting the finishing touches on a deal that would see Te Urewera National Park returned to Tuhoe, with enough caveats to ensure that access and other rights for the public would remain practically unchanged.

Tuhoe would have what all the evidence shows rightfully belongs to it, and the rest of the country would not be adversely affected in any way in the process.

The sort of settlement one would have expected the Crown and the public to welcome with open arms.

The deal was a long time coming. The Waitangi Tribunal has documented in excruciating detail how successive governments since the 19th century trampled over Tuhoe rights – appropriating their lands with disregard for the occupants and with contempt for any sense of natural justice.

In the roughly 18 months before last May, negotiations between various Government departments and the iwi looked promising.

All that remained were the formalities confirming the transfer.

Then, someone blinked. A rushed announcement was made by the Prime Minster that Tuhoe were not going to have the National Park returned to them after all.

The iwi’s clearly stunned negotiators were left wondering what had suddenly gone wrong with negotiations that had appeared to have been progressing so well.

The excuse the Government used last May – and has stuck to since – was that the return of Te Urewera National Park might set a precedent for other Treaty settlements.

Putting aside the sui generis nature of Tuhoe’s claim, the argument that doing something right in dealings with one iwi might mean having to do things right with other iwi, hardly seemed to be a good basis for the decision. The moral rectitude of returning Te Urewera National Park to Tuhoe ownership was completely airbrushed out of the political equation.

Yet, in spite of the enormous frustration of having the expected return of the land snatched away at the last minute, Tuhoe’s response in the subsequent 12 months has been one of patience, restraint and dignity.

Its negotiators have persisted with their calm, informed approach in dealings with the Crown, while all the time, the Crown’s tactic has been one of delay.

No doubt the beguiling character of Te Urewera National Park has been a consideration for those who oppose returning the park to Tuhoe.

Its long-lauded sublime characteristics have for more than a century left visitors to the area in awe of its staggering beauty.

To others, it is a drug-addled and gang-choked backwater – a dystopia  in the middle of utopia. Either way, it is a part of the country where the links indigenous communities have with the land is strong, and where experiences since the 1860s have left an ingrained sense of grievance among many of the inhabitants.

With one year having passed since the Government’s decision to pull the rug out from under the feet of Tuhoe, on the surface, things seemed to have stalled.

Low-level talks have continued, but the momentum lost last May has yet to be regained. Yet a resolution is still tantalisingly close.

Courage on one side and continued goodwill on the other seem to be all that is now required to produce a lasting settlement for an area that has for too long been victim to reticent government policies.

And that for just as long has lived with the mounting despair of a major grievance left unresolved.

5. Interrogating the terror

Masked gunmen descended on Ruatoki in the dead of night in 2007. But not to worry, they were police. Tom McKinlay talks to a couple of film-makers who aren’t quite so relaxed about it.

As a chapter in the war on terror closed this week, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, ripples from the tsunami of fear he helped unleash lapped against distant New Zealand.

Cables released by Wikileaks indicated that the police case against the Urewera 18 was expected to end merely in fines for the defendants, according to the police themselves.

That result would be a big come-down from the fevered talk of terrorism by police and politicians alike in the days after the arrests on October 15, 2007 – sparked by fears of paramilitary camps in the thickly forested North Island hills.

It is another twist in a tale two New Zealand documentary makers have been following since the early days of the drama. Their documentary, Operation 8, screens as part of the World Cinema Showcase film festival next week in Dunedin.

That all the talk of terrorism has gone quiet is no surprise to the film-makers, Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones, who quickly sensed that the picture painted on prime-time television did not quite ring true.

“I saw the news headlines on October 15 [2007] and I was just generally kind of shocked and confused as to what seemed to me to be a really aggressive, full-on police action, especially what had happened up in Ruatoki,” Wright said.

“Then on the same day I think [then Police Commissioner] Howard Broad was on the news at 5 o’clock and he put this terrorism idea out into the public.”

It seemed to Wright then that Mr Broad was getting ahead of the evidence, as little time had elapsed since the raids to determine whether insurgency was really in the making – more than 60 houses around New Zealand had been raided.

As it turned out, the police case unravelled quickly, and within four weeks of the raids charges laid under the Suppression of Terrorism Act 2002 were dropped when the Solicitor-general decided they would not
stand up.

What is left of the police case is scheduled to finally make its way to trial later this month.

In making Operation 8 – which takes its name from the police operation – Wright and King-Jones went back to the people whose houses were raided, as well as looking at some wider issues.

“Doing the interviews with the people up in Ruatoki about what happened to them on the day of the raids was quite moving, just to hear the stories of families and specifically what had happened to children and the fact that people had been locked in sheds and not been given food and that kind of thing,” King-Jones says.

“Also in terms of the broader area that we look at in terms of police surveillance in New Zealand and the extent to which that has targeted activists in really intrusive ways was quite eye-opening.”

Among those the film-makers talked to were a former police undercover agent, whose revelations and observations about the raids were “especially dramatic”, she says.

“In the broader sense, we looked at what goes on in New Zealand in terms of the surveillance and security agencies and how much power they have and how they keep extending that power with every new bit of legislation that comes in, in terms of their reach of surveillance into the lives of Kiwis.

“I guess putting all of that stuff, and looking at where the war on terror and colonisation has come from into one document gives a view of a side of New Zealand that many people don’t have a window on.”

And for the people of Ruatoki, in the Tuhoe lands at the centre of the action, the raids had more than a little of the whiff of colonisation about them.

“That was what came out immediately,” King-Jones says.

“For Tuhoe in particular, they have a very specific personal history with the police in terms of it being an arm of the State.”

Parallels were drawn with the police action taken against Rua Kenana at Maungapohatu in 1916, during which his son was killed and Kenana Taken away and imprisoned.

“For them it was a very real current thing happening in terms of them being able to link it back to their recent experience with the State and the police.”

The film opens with the 2007 raids.

“We begin the film by getting the first-hand experiences of these people, when they tell the story of what it was like to wake up on October 15 and hear something outside their house or see red dots in their house and what their initial reactions were,” King-Jones says.

“Was this just some drunk people walking past on their way home, or the horses running around their house?

Then suddenly there’s these guns and these guys in terror get-up and they are being yelled at and screamed at and their families are being dragged out on to the street.

“Then on the other side of it you had the people who just thought, suddenly there were these police officers there ‘and they were telling me I was a terrorist and it was just ludicrous and I just laughed’.”

Wright says recent concerns raised by members of Te Whanau A Apanui on the North Island’s East Coast that they might be subjected to similar raids as a result of their protest against offshore oil drilling, should not be lightly dismissed.

“Ultimately it is always a possibility. The reality is that there are 16 detectives in Auckland working full-time on finding the terrorist threats, there are 12 in Wellington and I think eight in Christchurch, so I think the threshold for what these people are looking at is lowered,” he says.

“Over the last few years we have seen more and more use of the Armed Offenders [Squads] coming out for what would usually be a routine thing and ultimately people are getting shot or totally intimidated.”

Some care had to be taken by the film-makers with court cases looming. They had to be careful not to include anything covered by suppression orders or that would otherwise put them in contempt of court.

“We didn’t ask people in any of the interviews what was going on at these supposed camps because anything along that line of questioning is sub judice,” King-Jones says.

Screenings of the documentary in the North Island have been well-attended, the film-makers say, with extended question-and-answer sessions at the end.

“People are usually quite worked up after the screenings and want to know more,” King-Jones says.

The pair will also be at the Dunedin screenings in the coming week.


Cheques – Please make your cheque payable to ‘October 15 Solidarity’, and post to October 15 Solidarity, PO Box 9263, Wellington, New Zealand.

Wire or Transfer Details – Bank: Kiwibank, Account name: October 15 Solidarity, Account Number: 38-9007-0239672-000

This is a Wellington based group that formed in the immediate aftermath of the raids. It does both support work and political organising. Deposits made with the code “Support” will be dedicated towards supporting all those affected by the raids, arrests and on-going court appearances.


The website is regularly updated. The website aims to be multilingual and gives background information as well as updates on legal proceedings. There are poster, newsletters and leaflets available here:

A DROP THE CHARGES leaflet can be downloaded here:

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May 7, 2011 - Posted by | Human rights, Internationally significant information

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