Tame Iti - the country's radical Maori face

Last updated 00:00 15/10/2007
DAVID WHITE/Sunday Star Times
FACING CHARGES: Tame Iti, who was among the people facing arms charges after police raids, is seen at a Waitangi Day ceremony at Waitangi's lower marae in 2005.

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With his heavily tattooed face and a tendency toward the melodramatic, Tame Iti is the country's best known Maori rights campaigners.

Today tHe 55-year-old from Tuhoe man is facing arms charges and police are looking at possible terrorism charges later, following raids linked to military style training camps in the Urewera Mountains in Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Mr Iti's lawyers deny any suggestion of terrorism.

Mr Iti has seldom been out of the headlines, the most recent being drawn out legal proceedings over shooting a New Zealand flag on a marae in January 2005. He later said it was an attempt to create a sense of what it was like during the land wars for the Waitangi Tribunal.

"We wanted them to feel the heat and smoke, and Tuhoe outrage and disgust at the way we have been treated for 200 years".

Police initially ignored the incident but after it was screen on television he was charged with discharging a firearm in a public place.

In June last year Judge Chris McGuire convicted and fined him.

"It was designed to intimidate unnecessarily and shock. It was a stunt, it was unlawful," Justice McGuire said.

Iti appealled to the Court of Appeal which overturned the conviction.

The Court of Appeal described Iti's protest as a "a foolhardy enterprise" and warned him not to attempt anything similar again.

Last month he went to Fiji to offer support to coup leader Voreqe Bainimarama. He tried the same thing in 2000, linking up with now convicted traitor George Speight, meeting him as Speight held the government hostage.

Iti claims to have spent a childhood in schools banned from speaking Maori, leading him to Nga Tamatoa, one of the protest moments of the 1970s.

He joined the Communist Party during the 1970s and visited China.

Iti spent much of the last 20 years in Auckland working in assorted roles including as a DJ and a restaurant owner serving Maori food. He ran and art gallery and for a time sold Tuhoe passports.

He has run unsuccessfully for Parliament on three occasions.

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- Fairfax Media

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