2007 New Zealand police raids
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The 2007 New Zealand raids were a series of armed police arrests conducted on Monday, 15 October 2007, in response to the discovery of an alleged paramilitary training camp in the Urewera mountain range near the town of Ruatoki.
About 300 police, including members of the Armed Offenders Squad and Special Tactics Group, were involved in the arrests in which four guns and 230 rounds of ammunition were seized and 17 people arrested. According to police, the raids were a culmination of more than a year of surveillance that uncovered and monitored the training camps.
Search warrants were executed under the Summary Proceedings Act to search for evidence relating to potential breaches of the Terrorism Suppression Act but on 8 November the Solicitor-General declined to press charges under that legislation, which he described as "incoherent and unworkable", and "almost impossible to apply to domestic terrorism in New Zealand as it was too complex".
According to Helen Clark, the Prime Minister at the time of the raids, one of the reasons police tried to lay charges under anti-terror legislation was because they could not use telephone interception evidence in prosecutions under the Arms Act.
Of 17 people arrested, just four came to trial in February–March 2012, and were found guilty on some firearms charges. On the more serious charges of belonging to an organised criminal group, the jury was unable to agree. The cost to the taxpayer, including legal aid and prosecution costs, was estimated to be well over $6 million.
Police commissioner Howard Broad said the raids were conducted in the interest of public safety, but declined to outline the nature of the threat. Seventeen people were arrested in the raids, the most notable being veteran activist Tame Iti, who grew up and has lived much of his life in Ruatoki. Police documents allege Iti was preparing for an IRA-style "war on New Zealand" to establish an independent state on traditionally Tūhoe land.[dead link]
According to a Dominion Post report, Iti's group, named "Rama" – the Maori word for enlightenment – consisted of about 20 people including former New Zealand Army soldiers, some of whom had fought in the Vietnam War, as well as several members in their late teens. The group's methods were allegedly derived from the IRA's Green Book training manual. The Dominion's source described the group as "comical" and "amateurish." An "open invitation" to the training camps had been sent to sympathetic activists. A Christchurch activist who claims to have attended said he was "overwhelmed" and "a bit freaked out" by their military-style practices. The owner of Christchurch gun dealer Gun City, which is supposed to have supplied about 5% of the group's supplies "including a gun cabinet and magazines", claimed much of what was seized was not useful for a terrorist attack, and that the media had sensationalised the events. He pointed to media descriptions of a plastic paintball "landmine" as a landmine.
The Officials Committee for Domestic and External Security Co-ordination (ODESC), a government group, was also involved in the operation.
Early on the morning of Monday October 15, roadblocks were set up between Ruatoki and Taneatua by armed police, who searched and questioned everyone who passed through. After reports that a school bus was stopped and searched, police superintendent Wally Haumaha said these reports were wrong. However, the bus driver told a hikoi four days after the raid: "The police did hop on our bus and they did search our bus ... they always held their rifles." The organiser of the hikoi called on the government to acknowledge the incident and do something for the children affected by it. Speaking on Radio New Zealand she asked "I'd like to ask that question why? [was there nothing being done] is it because we're from Ruatoki? Is it because the majority of children are Māori out here?" Police maintained a strong presence in Ruatoki in the days following the initial raids and continued to question locals.
A number of search warrants were executed in Auckland, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton, in addition to the Bay of Plenty raids in Ruatoki and Whakatane. One man was arrested on firearms charges in Palmerston North – he was granted interim name suppression. In the following days police also visited homes in Taupo and Tauranga.
Early on the morning of Monday October 15 four houses were searched in the Wellington region including a house used as a community centre, known as 128 Community Centre. The community centre is a known meeting place for activists, including environmentalists. It hosted fundraisers for foreign revolutionary movements and is also used for activities including yoga and language classes, a food bank and art facilities. There, around 20 police surrounded the house before 6:00am and used sniffer dogs to search the house and nearby properties. A television cameraman from TV3, which has an office on the same street, was allowed to record the raid.
An occupant of the house told Radio New Zealand that some people who had been in the house had likely met Tame Iti, but that the search warrant was for firearms and other materials, including things like "green jacket" and "men's black shoes." Police took away documents and bags of clothing.
Two Christchurch addresses inhabited by members of the Save Happy Valley Campaign were also visited by police in search of a person of interest, however, they did not have a search warrant and were refused access to the properties. Save Happy Valley is a group of environmentalist activists that use direct action, such as locking themselves to railway tracks, to oppose Solid Energy's coal mining in the Happy Valley region. Police later located the person at another Christchurch residence. The man had attended the camp in the Urewera Range after an invitation from Tuhoe activists, according to a source close to him.
A home in Taupo was searched for four hours by police following previous raids elsewhere. The home owner is the organiser of Ecoshow, an environmental expo, and denied having any connection to the group in the Bay of Plenty. He suspected his home was targeted because his daughter was in a relationship with a man from Ruatoki. Police seized computers and other equipment from the house – according to the occupant this equipment was used for the organics business run from the home.
On 18 October, police entered the home of a Tauranga pensioner while he was out and took an old oilskin jacket, a raincoat, a polar-fleece jacket, some magnets and an air rifle leaving behind a 20-page search warrant stating there "is reasonable ground for believing" there were items inside which were an offence relating to either "participating in a terrorist group", or the unlawful possession of firearms or restricted weapons. The occupant of the home told the New Zealand Herald that he had no idea why his home was searched and was "gutted" police had linked him to people potentially involved in terrorist crimes.
Four houses were raided in the city of Palmerston North, one by armed police.
Arrests and following court cases
Seventeen people were arrested in the raids, including Maori activist Tame Iti, his nephews Rawiri Iti and Maraki Teepa, Aucklander Jamie Lockett, and activist Omar Hamed. Within a month all were granted bail. Others included Rongomai Pero Pero Bailey of Taranaki, who was charged with four firearms offences (all later dismissed by a judge for insufficient evidence); a 53-year-old man arrested in Palmerston North and bailed on health grounds; Marama Mayrick, who faces five firearms charges; and Ira Timothy Bailey, the brother of Rongomai Bailey. Of the 17 arrested, 16 are facing firearms charges while one is facing a cannabis charge. Police also attempted to lay charges against 12 people under the Terrorism Suppression act but the Solicitor General declined to prosecute for charges under the act.
Fifteen of the accused had their cases heard in the Auckland district court on 1 November with the remaining two cases being heard the following day. As a result of the first hearing Ira Bailey was granted bail and Jamie Lockett was given leave to apply for home detention. Name suppression was also lifted on another three of the arrested; Emily Bailey, Moana Hemi Winitana and Valerie Morse. Morse is a well-known Wellington anarchist activist who in June 2007 published the book Against Freedom: The war on terrorism in everyday New Zealand life. All were scheduled to have their next hearing on 3 December, though after the Solicitor General's decision not to lay terrorism charges, there were bail hearings on 9 November resulting in Valerie Morse, Emily Bailey, Omar Hamed, Tame Iti and another man who had name suppression being granted bail. The last four of those arrested were also granted bail after a court appearance on 12 November.
When the cases were heard a large crowd had gathered both inside and outside the court to support the people arrested during the raids. Because of "the real and genuine interest" in the charges, the media wanted all future hearings to be held in open, The Crown took the unprecedented stance of supporting the media's right to photograph and cover the entire hearing. The New Zealand media challenged an appeal to retain the name suppression for two of those arrested, on 31 October the High Court dismissed the appeal, allowing the men's names to be made public. The men were revealed as Vietnam war veteran Tuhoe Francis Lambert, and Te Rangikaiwhiria (Whiri) Kemara, both residing in Manurewa, Auckland.
On 8 November 2007, the Solicitor General declined to prosecute under the Terrorism Suppression Act, citing insufficient evidence, and described the legislation as "complex and incoherent", and "almost impossible to apply to domestic circumstances", and recommended the law be sent to the Law Commission for review, which parliament has since agreed to.
On 18 December 2009, 8 August 2011 was set as a tentative trial date.
In September 2011 the crown dropped the charges for 13 of the 17 defendants after the Supreme Court ruled certain evidence inadmissible. A 3–2 verdict by the court overturned previous rulings by the High Court and Court of Appeal that cameras installed by the police to record the defendants engaging in military-style training were lawful.
However, it found that the charges against Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Signer of participating in a criminal gang and unlawful possession of firearms were so serious that the evidence collected by the cameras could be used.
Leaked evidence controversy
In November 2007, The Dominion Post published a front page story "The terrorism files", including a photograph of an AOS officer with a gun, and an extract from the tapes: "'Get someone to assassinate the prime minister . . . just drop a bomb.", a story based on a copy of the police evidence affidavit, including their surveillance transcripts - material which was all covered by a judge's suppression order.
The lawyer representing Jamie Lockett filed a contempt of court complaint against Fairfax Media, publisher of The Dominion Post. He told Radio New Zealand "I think it is a fairly cynical move by the Dominion to sell newspapers. They have obviously looked at it from a commercial point of view and felt they can make more money by publishing it and I think just adds to the level of contempt." On 10 April 2008 the solicitor general confirmed he would take contempt of court proceedings against Fairfax Media and Dominion Post editor Tim Pankhurst, stating that "The articles were sensational in tone and highly memorable. The fact of the publications themselves became national news."
After a trial, the High Court "found that neither Fairfax nor Mr Pankhurst (as editor of the Dominion Post) is guilty of contempt because the publications are unlikely to prejudice a fair trial of the accused."
On 13 February 2012, the trial for the remaining four defendants began in the Auckland High Court. At the request of the defendants the trial was heard before a jury. In the court the prosecution said the four persons on trial were the ringleaders of the organised criminal group which trained for months to take military action against civilian targets in their cause for an independent Tuhoe nation, with Tame Iti as leader.
The jury was unable to agree on a verdict for the major charge of belonging to an organised criminal group, but found all defendants guilty of some firearms charges, and not guilty on others:
- Tame Iti, found guilty on five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon - Molotov cocktail. Sentenced to two and a half years jail.
- Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, found guilty on five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon (a Molotov cocktail). Sentenced to two and a half years jail.
- Emily Bailey, found guilty on five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon. Sentenced to nine months of home detention.
- Urs Signer, found guilty on four charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon. Sentenced to nine months of home detention.
In 2013 the Supreme Court dismissed Tame Iti and Te Rangikawhiria Kemara's bid to argue against their convictions and sentences.
Government ministers, including Police Minister Annette King, asked MPs to remain calm about the issue as a police matter, and wait until details were exposed in the courts. Prime Minister Helen Clark, who was also the minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service, at first distanced herself from the raids, and refused to comment on SIS involvement. Later, while the case was before the courts, she told media that those arrested "at the very least" had been training with firearms and napalm. National Party leader John Key told media he was briefed by SIS staff days before the raids occurred.
The Māori Party condemned the raids, with the MP for Waiariki, Te Ururoa Flavell, criticising the police for putting a community in his electorate "under siege," referring to the roadblocks imposed on the town of Ruatoki. Co-leader Pita Sharples said the action had violated the trust that has been developing between Maori and Pakeha and had set race-relations back a hundred years. The Green Party was also been critical, with co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons saying the raids traumatised the local population. The party later joined protests in Auckland to pressure the government to withdraw the Terrorism Suppression Amendment and called for those arrested to be released on bail. MP Keith Locke told TVNZ that the party would continue to protest until those held in custody are released. In contrast, New Zealand First, MP Ron Mark stated that the police should be congratulated, and suggested a link between criminal gangs and the "suspected terrorist groups." He called for the anti-terrorism laws to be expanded to "outlaw criminal organisations such as gangs once and for all". Aaron Loyd of the New Zealand Law Society pointed out that the legislation could already be used against gangs. The Workers Party released a statement condemning the raids as "state violence." Socialist Worker called for the "Terror Laws to be abolished.
Political commentators took different views on the raids, with intelligence agencies researcher and journalist Nicky Hager suggesting the raids may have been the result of the increased police and SIS staffing and resources aimed at anti-terrorism since 2001. (The raids and the surveillance preceding them cost $8 million to plan and execute.) Veteran activist John Minto criticised the police for the move, claiming that their actions provoked a "climate of fear and repression" while left-leaning commentator and blogger Martyn "Bomber" Bradbury, sided with the police, saying that in his dealings with the activist community he had become concerned with the actions of "some clowns." The Herald was criticised for publishing these comments which did not mention who the "clowns" were or name the blog site Bradbury claimed to have communicated with them on. New Zealand Herald columnist Matt McCarten saw the raids as being over the top; "Some of the young people I know who were arrested are actually vegans who don't even believe in killing animals, let alone human beings. When you get the police searching homes of environmental activists trying to save snails on the West Coast, you know that things have got really silly." McCarten also stated that New Zealanders should be more worried about the country joining the US database of terrorist suspects, and "the creeping powers of our secret police." However the 'From the left' columnist for the Dominion Post, Chris Trotter reacted differently, saying "it wasn't the actions of the police that provoked my fury, but of those who'd forced their hand." When left-wing musician Don Franks wrote a protest song about the raids, "Safer Communities Together Blues" he took a swipe at Trotters reaction with the lyrics "The political climate's getting hotter / Got to watch out for the pigs and the pigs' Trotter."
The New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, which represented over 350,000 workers, called for the repeal of the Suppression of Terrorism Act. CTU President Helen Kelly commented "the use of this law is unhelpful and is having the effect of making all political groups nervous about how this law is being and could be used." Civil Liberties group Who's Watching You called the raids "a despicable show of force by the coercive arm of the state" and said that "The extensive use of surveillance to allegedly gather information is another telling example of the Government and police force's willingness to disregard the people of Aotearoa." Canterbury University academic and social justice campaigner David Small told bFM that the raids were draconian and probably illegal. Former inspector in charge of the Auckland police criminal intelligence Ross Meurant called the raids "extreme and excessive" and claimed the police were guilty of "self-hype and self-justification."
An independent survey taken in early November showed 48% of people wanted to wait and see what evidence the police had before they made a judgment on the raids, while 36% said they were already satisfied with the way the police reacted and 13% thought the police over-reacted. The statistics were much different among Māori, with 40% of Māori saying the police had over-reacted. The sample size was 750 people.
On 16 October, supporters of Tame Iti protested at the Rotorua District Court, and peace and environmental protesters gathered in Christchurch's Cathedral Square chanted and held signs such as "Protest is not terrorism" and "Arrest me. I'm protesting, I must be a terrorist". Indigenous rights protesters also rallied outside the New Zealand Consulate in Melbourne to condemn the raids. Another protest occurred on 17 October outside the Wellington district court. On 19 October up to one thousand people participated in a hikoi in Whakatane, including people from the Ruatoki Valley and children from the Ruatoki primary school. One Māori elder speaking at the protest called for the overturning of the Suppression of Terrorism Act. The following day hundreds of protesters took to the streets across New Zealand, targeting local police stations. Protesters demanded the government withdraw the Terrorism Suppression Amendment Bill and called for immediate bail for those arrested in the raids. Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesperson Mike Treen said a 'Darth Vader police force in para-military uniforms has been terrorising whole communities' and called for a national day of action the following week. On the day Tame Iti appeared in the Rotorua district court 500 people protested causing police to close off streets around the Rotorua Courthouse. There were protests on 27 October 2007 in 13 cities around New Zealand, and around the world including; the Netherlands, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Greece and Australia.
On 3 November, a demonstration involving about 150 people took place outside a Labour Party conference. Some protesters wearing orange boiler suits had chained themselves together with gags in their mouths and a word such as "terrorist", "Māori" or "anarchist" on their backs. Others held placards with the slogans "State terrorists kidnapped our friends" and "Free political prisoners". Len Richards, a Labour Party delegate allegedly struck a protester in the face with a megaphone, though he claims "there was no violence" despite TV3 showing footage of the incident. According to the Workers Party, the protester was one of their members. Three arrests were made at the protest, one a man attempting to break the police line and enter the Bruce Mason Centre where the conference was held, a second had been pulled off the top of a police van and a third was taken out the crowd, he claimed he had been trying to perform a haka. Security personnel at the venue had been significantly increased from the previous day.
Auckland lawyer Peter Williams, engaged by representatives of Tuhoe, examined whether charges could be brought against police for the raids and whether there was a case for charges of wrongful imprisonment. Williams wrote to Police Commissioner Howard Broad, seeking compensation and a restoration of mana, but on 14 December announced he had received no reply and would represent thirty members of Tuhoe in a class action against the police. Broad had earlier however publicly apologised to the people of Ruatoki for the raids and acknowledged that the actions of his force might take decades to heal. According to TV3 Ruatoki residents wanted utu (reciprocity) in the form of Broad's resignation. The call for his resignation was echoed by the Māori Party and Global Peace and Justice Auckland. A hikoi protesting the raids and the Suppression of Terrorism Act left the Bay of Plenty on 12 November. The hikoi collected signatures for a petition that it presented to parliament when it arrived in Wellington two days later. On 13 November a group of concerned individuals placed an advertisement in the Dominion Post urging the government to withdraw the Suppression of Terrorism Bill. Signatories to the advertisement included Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons and National Distribution Union leader Laila Harre.
In March 2011, the Court of Appeal ruled for the prosecution in saying that the defendants in the case could be tried by a judge alone. The reasons for this decision are suppressed from publication by the courts. Originally, on 9 December 2010, the decision not to hold a jury trial was itself suppressed by Justice Helen Winkelmann, but this was lifted later that month.
A documentary critical of the raids, Operation 8: Deep in the Forest, was directed by Errol Wright and Abi King-Jones and screened around New Zealand as part of the World Cinema Showcase film festival.
In September 2011 charges against 11 of the initial 17 were dropped. As a result, the government passed the Video Camera Surveillance (Temporary Measures) Act 2011.
A May 2013 Independent Police Conduct Authority review found "...police searches, vehicle stops, roadblocks and photographs taken in Tuhoe country on October 15, 2007, unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable."
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- "Last 'terror raid' accused freed as hikoi starts". The New Zealand Herald. 12 November 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
- "Anti-raids hikoi expected to swell". TVNZ. 12 November 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
- "Criticism of anti-terror laws intensifies". Newstalk ZB. 13 November 2007. Retrieved 13 November 2007.
- Anna Leask (30 March 2011). "Urewera raids cases to be heard without jury". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- "Urewera raids: Lone judge to decide cases". The New Zealand Herald. 7 January 2011. Retrieved 30 March 2011.
- Graeme Tuckett (9 May 2011). "Film review: Operation 8". Stuff.co.nz. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- Russell Baillie (8 June 2011). "Movie Reviews: Operation 8 and Last Paradise". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 10 September 2011.
- onfilm.co.nz review, by Helen Martin
- "Mourning the loss of our Tuhoe comrade". Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- "Fight to continue to clear Lambert's name". 13 September 2011. Retrieved 11 February 2012.
- Steward, Ian; Watkins, Tracy (6 September 2011). "Gun charges against Urewera accused dropped". Fairfax New Zealand. Retrieved 8 September 2011.
- ""Elephants and the Law" by Dean Knight: Covert video surveillance and the (c)overt erosion of the Rule of Law". laws179.co.nz. Retrieved 29 March 2015.
- "Govt and Tuhoe sign $170m settlement". 3 News NZ. 22 March 2013.
- [nal/8706058/Urewera-police-actions-unlawful-unreasonable "Urewera police actions 'unlawful, unreasonable'"]
- Police affidavit Evidence collected by Police prior to the raids
- Paul Buchanan: Postscript on Operation 8
- Tuhoe Ruatoki residents plan roadblock
- A bad case of "Terrorism" hysteria Opinion article from the Anti-Bases Campaign
- Anti-terror raids leave scars article published one year on from the raids (archived copy)
- "Safer Communities Together Blues"
- Operation 8: Deep in the Forest – a documentary film about the raids