No retrial for Urewera four

TRACY WATKINS, CHARLES ANDERSON, BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 09:34 09/05/2012
Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and  Emily Bailey
GRAEME COX

Left to right: Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

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A High Court judge has this morning confirmed there will be no retrial of the "Urewera four".

Justice Brewer granted a stay of proceedings in the matter in the High Court at Auckland.

None of the four - Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey - were present in court.

The four were found guilty of firearms charges in March after a lengthy trial. The High Court jury was hung on the most serious charge, of whether the accused had participated in a criminal group.

The Crown case against the four contended that they were the ringleaders of alleged training camps preparing the participants for armed combat in 2007.

The case included sensational claims that the defendants and others were planning to use guerrilla warfare to achieve self-determination in the Tuhoe region.

But defence lawyers said the camps were to teach bushcraft and firearms skills in the hope that the participants might gain jobs in the security industry in the Middle East or Africa.

The four will be sentenced on firearms charges later this month.

POLICE 'OBSESSED WITH SPYING'

One of the defence lawyers this morning said the police had become obsessed with spying and wanted to test out a new unit rather than front and up deal with people on the scene.

Auckland lawyer Russell Fairbrother, acting for activist Tame Iti, told NewstalkZB the reasons for a stay of further proceedings were strong and it had been a mistake to bring the charges in the first place.

"It is easy said with hindsight but the police got a focus which could have been avoided if they had spoken to the people involved," he said.

At the time of the alleged charges, the police had been developing their special tactics group and were determined to have a target.

"Instead of investigating like police normally do they engaged in spying, and suspicious minds always find proof."

Fairbrother said that when the solicitor-general David Collins in 2007 withdrew the original terrorism charges, the Crown should have "pulled the plug".

He said the full cost of the trial would never be known but he believed the justice system was very good because the right decisions had been made.

"I do think the police have to consider whether spying is appropriate in New Zealand or whether fronting up and confronting people is the right way to go about it."

Fairbrother said he had yet to speak to Iti over the latest decision.

"He will be very relieved. He has been really worried; it has been an extremely stressful four years for him and the others."

Earlier Fairbrother said he hoped some good might come of the ordeal in making connections between the "Tuhoe approach to things and the Pakeha way of doing things".

"There shouldn't be a mystery. What was going on in the bush was private activity. Information was gained surreptitiously. They could have knocked on the door they would have been told."

'STOKED'

Urs Signer said last night he was "obviously stoked" the Crown would not seek a retrial.

"It's a great sigh of relief." Signer declined to comment further until today.

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"I'm just waiting to see the paper work being passed through my lawyer tomorrow morning. Then we'll be in a better position to make a comment."

The charges date back to a raid on groups living in the Ureweras in 2007.

Former Police Minister Annette King revealed earlier this month that Collins changed his advice after telling senior ministers that those involved in the Urewera training camps could be charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

A series of revelations followed the raids, including the emergence of secret surveillance of Urewera bush camp trainees talking about killing people for practice, throwing Molotov cocktails into gas-filled buildings, blowing up power stations, television networks and the Waihopai spy base.

There were also revelations that United States President George W Bush was a possible assassination target as was John Key, who was opposition leader at that time.

Key revealed on Monday that he was briefed by police before the raids - but they never let on that he was an alleged target till some time later, when they became aware the Sunday Star Times was preparing to publish the fact.

They alerted him to the story so he would have time to tell his children, Key said.

- Fairfax Media

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