Dome slasher to speak at spy base protest

BLAIR ENSOR
Last updated 12:00 20/01/2011

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One of the three men who slashed a dome at the Waihopai Valley spy base will return to the controversial satellite communications station near Blenheim on Saturday for an annual protest.

Anti-bases Campaign spokesman, Christchurch-based Murray Horton, said Ploughshares peace activist and Dominican friar Peter Murnane would speak about what motivated the trio's protest in 2008.

Green MP Keith Locke and Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesman John Minto would also speak at the event, Mr Horton said.

The repercussions of the spy base attack are ongoing, with the Crown seeking $1.2 million in damages from Mr Murnane, teacher Adrian Leason, and farmer Sam Land.

The three men broke into the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) on Waihopai Valley Rd on April 30, 2008, cutting through alarmed electric fences without setting off any audible alarms or getting electrocuted before reaching one of two inflatable domes and slashing and deflating it.

They were found not guilty by a jury in April last year on charges of burglary and wilful damage.

They successfully used the "claim of right" defence and said they were saving lives in Iraq by disrupting satellite trans-missions and were acting for the greater good.

Mr Horton said Mr Murnane's attendance at this weekend's rally would create greater public interest in the event.

He expected up to 30 people to assemble in Seymour Square at 11am before marching through the centre of Blenheim.

Protesters would drive to the Waihopai base about 2pm, he said.

"I think [Mr Murnane's] presence will add a great deal. He was one of three people prepared to stick his neck on the line.

"We are fully supportive of what those guys did although we had no prior knowledge of what they were going to do.

"It was a perfect demonstration of non-violent action. However, we have no plans to do anything similar," Mr Horton said.

Senior Sergeant Ciaran Sloan, of Blenheim, said police would be prepared for the demonstration this weekend.

Protests against the presence of the base have been held al-most every year since 1988.

The GCSB had refused the campaign permission to enter the grounds for the past three years so the protest would take place at the outer gate, Mr Horton said.

The theme of the protest would be anti-war, but there would also be a focus on cables released by WikiLeaks about Waihopai.

"The purpose of the protest is to direct attention to the fact the base is there. It remains New Zealand's most important contribution to the American war."

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The base was part of a global intelligence network and was key to the United States being able to fight wars, he said.

"That means New Zealand has blood on its hands."

In December WikiLeaks cables detailed New Zealand's involvement in the US-UK-Canada-Australia-NZ "Five Eyes" intelligence alliance, which included the base.

It was also revealed the base had been used to spy on Fiji's military, passing intelligence to the US.

Green MP Keith Locke said he had discovered more about the base from WikiLeaks than he had in the 11 years he had been in Government.

The base was an essential part of an electronic spying network and operating it aligned New Zealand to the same foreign policy objectives as the United States Government, Mr Locke said.

- The Marlborough Express

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