Urewera pair plan to appeal

VICTORIA ROBINSON
Last updated 12:48 21/06/2012
UREWERA CASE: Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.
GRAHAME COX/Sunday News
UREWERA CASE: Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

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Urs Signer has slammed the "Urewera four" case against him as "racist" and about stopping mana motuhake, or self governance, of Tuhoe.

Signer and Emily Bailey were today sentenced to nine months home detention.

Outside the court Signer said he and Bailey would be appealing their convictions and sentences.

He maintained the "Urewera four" were merely holding wananga in the Urewera ranges.

"We put forward a defence that this was wananga, learning skills in the bush, that's what it was about and not what the Crown says this was about - seriously violent offences. It's wrong. They are wrong. And we've maintained this throughout this.

"There was no plan at any point to commit serious violent offences. There was no plan at all. The plan has always been to advance te mana motuhake of Tuhoe."

When asked why a wananga would train with molotov cocktails, Signer said none of the four accused were seen on hidden camera footage throwing the weapons.

"Even if they had, as I said on Native Affairs, what's the big deal? What's the big fuss around this? We were doing what we were doing on private Tuhoe land in a Tuhoe wananga and this case is a travesty. In 2012 a Tuhoe leader like Tame Iti is locked up on illegally-gathered evidence."

Signer drew parallels between the "Urewera four" case and the historic trial and subsequent imprisonment of Tuhoe prophet Rua Kenana.

In 1916, Kenana was found not guilty for treason by a jury. A judge found him guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced him to one year hard labour, followed by 18 months imprisonment.

Bailey and Signer, along with Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were found guilty of firearms charges after a six-week trial in the High Court at Auckland earlier this year.

In May, Iti and Kemara were sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison.

Bailey and Signer were due to be sentenced at the same time, but Justice Rodney Hansen adjourned the proceedings so they could be assessed for home detention.

At last month's hearing, lawyers for Signer and Bailey emphasised their clients' good characters, and their involvement in the settlement of Parihaka - a community established to pursue peace.

Signer's lawyer Christopher Stevenson said his client was not yet 30, but had taken up many positions of responsibility, including teaching music to children, working in the kitchens and starting a community garden.

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Stevenson argued for a discharge without conviction, saying the court should impose the least restrictive sentence given the five years the case has dragged on.

He said a conviction would restrict the choices that Signer, a Swiss national, would be able to make in his life.

Val Nisbet, Bailey's lawyer, said his client put others' needs before her own, and one of her biggest concerns about being sentenced was how it would affect her delivery of food to the elderly in Parihaka.

A Corrections department official present in court told the judge if he were to grant an electronically-monitored home detention sentence the pair could be monitored from the community, but would largely have to stay within one house within the large property.

The Crown, represented by lawyer Ross Burns, said during the sentencing last month that New Zealand was still waiting on an explanation for what the four were doing in the Ureweras.

He argued for jail sentences for the four accused, saying firearms were "not a joke" and the poor weapons skills at the alleged training camps had potentially put lives in danger.

After a six-week trial earlier this year, all but Signer were found guilty of five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon - Molotov cocktails.

Signer was found guilty on four charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon.

Iti, Kemara and Bailey were found not guilty of four firearms charges, and Signer not guilty of five.

The jury could not decide on the most serious charge laid against the four - participating in an organised criminal group.

The Crown decided not to pursue a retrial on that charge, because doing so would add further expense to an already high-cost case, and unprecedented media coverage could make it difficult to find an impartial jury.

The trial jury were asked to decide whether Iti, Kemara, Bailey and Signer were participating in military training camps in the Urewera ranges in October 2007, or if the four were engaged in a more innocent pursuit, teaching people skills to gain employment in the security industry in the Middle East.

- Auckland Now

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