Thursday, 15 November 2007

Police Terror Raids in New Zealand

In October the police mounted a wide ranging series of raids agains suspected terrorists. 17 people were arrested under New Zealand's anti-terrorism law. Various firearms and other charges were laid against them using other laws. The police body of evidence was submitted to the Solicitor General in order to establish if there was a case to be made under the anti-terrorism law – as is required by the law.

The Solicitor General did not authorise any charges under the anti-terrorism law. He said that the law was incomprehensible and made it almost impossible for it to be used against domestic terrorists. However he also said the police did the right thing in seeking the evidence under the law and was very disturbed by some of the evidence. Unfortunately as there were no charges laid under the anti-terrorism law the evidence gathered under it cannot be used in other charges or be made public. Effectively the New Zealand public has no way of knowing whether the police actions were justified.

Since the raids and arrests there have been numerous claims about them. My views on some of them are below.

  1. The raids were uncalled for. These people aren't terrorists! No one has been charged with terrorism.

    The Solicitor General believes the raids were justified given the body of evidence. This is what the police do – collect evidence, arrest people and then charge them if a case can be made. In my opinion the New Zealand's law system has worked exceptionally well in this case. No terrorism charges were laid as in the Solicitor General's belief the law used to gather the evidence could not be applied. This is an example of the law working as it should.

  2. The raids and arrests were racist as they targeted Maori and, in particular, Tuhoe Maori.

    Maori, Pakeha, and one Iranian were among the arrested. If the police action was racist, which racial group was the target of racism? Having representatives of the two main ethnic groups in New Zealand in the group of arrested people would seem to indicate that neither of them were being discriminated against. Some of the claims of racism seem to be in the order of , “Maori were arrested therefore the police were being racist”. I don't subscribe to this type of reasoning. Other claims are along the lines that the Tuhoe area was unfairly targeted and that this is racist. However, this ignores that the majority of the alleged illegal actions took place within the Tuhoe boundaries. This was exactly the area where police would most expect to meet some armed resistance.

  3. The police actions in the Tuhoe area of the Uruweras were over the top. In particular the use of heavily armed and masked police to search every vehicle entering or leaving the town/area of Ruatoki was completely unjustified.

    Some years ago the police went into the same area to arrest some members of the Mongrel Mob who were suspects in a murder case. The Mongrel Mob members were smugggled through a police roadblock in a Kohanga Reo van. As this time the police were searching for a group of people who allegedly were preparing to conduct terrorist actions within New Zealand and who may have been heavily armed, I think it is reasonable to actively search every vehicle given that when they didn't do this in the past a couple of suspects were smuggled past them.

    However, in some instances the police actions were over the top and possibly illegal. For instance, holding people without charge for many hours while searching their property isn't acceptable. Compounding that, the failure to allow those people access to food, water, clothing etc. in order to deal with children is reprehensible. Conducting full body searches in the public eye (as has been claimed) is also fairly appalling.

    Having people line up in front of their vehicles (while they were being searched) is also unacceptable. Yes, people have the right to refuse to have their photo taken in such circumstances. However, I think if I was in the situation of being faced by large numbers of heavily armed and masked police officers I would find it difficult to stand up for my rights. The level of intimidation in the atmosphere would be extreme.

  4. Some of the people were only activists. Why were they arrested?

    Most people talk shit and do nothing. Activists, however, have a history of talking shit and then acting. This is why they are called activists. They act on things instead of sitting around talking all day. ie. They are more likely to act on their statements than are non-activists. Taking part in military style training in secret camps in the bush is making a pretty strong statement which ever way you look at it.

  5. At least one person arrested has stated that he knew his phone was bugged and that he was playing games with the police with his phone conversations.

    The police gathered evidence over a two year period using a variety of methods including the bugging of phones, cars, buildings and other sites. I would be very surprised if anyone would be playing games constantly over that period of time, not only on the phone but in cars, buildings etc. Quite frankly, some of the conversations released are frightening.

  6. Tame Iti wouldn't hurt a fly.

    This claim simply is not true. Tame Iti did a six month stretch in 1997 after being convicted of assault and firearms charges. He was seen on nationwide television assaulting John Te Kaha and a television camera crew with a Taiaha.

It is interesting that the majority of those accused have not explicitly denied their actions. If I were one of them and certain of my innocence I would be waiving the right for the evidence against me to be suppressed (see 2nd paragraph).

Given the seriousness of these raids and the alleged actions of those arrested I think it is in the public interest for the mass of evidence gathered to be made public. We need to know the full story behind these raids.