Govt drops civil action against Waihopai three

STACEY KIRK
Last updated 06:56 06/02/2014
waihopai valley
EMMA ALLEN/ Fairfax NZ

LISTENING IN: The government spy base in the Waihopai Valley in Marlborough.

CLAIM OF RIGHT: Adrian Leason, left, and Peter Murnane outside the Wellington High Court where the Crown is trying to get damages from the Waihopai case.
ROSS GIBLIN/ The Dominion Post
CLAIM OF RIGHT: Adrian Leason, left, and Peter Murnane outside the Wellington High Court
Spy base
Sickle-wielding peace protesters deflated one of Waihopai Valley's landmark spy domes.

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The Crown has dropped its civil lawsuit against the three men who caused more than $1 million in damage to a spy base in Marlborough.

In 2008, Father Peter Murnane, farmer Samuel Land and teacher Adrian Leason entered Waihopai and punctured an inflatable dome covering a satellite dish.

The three peace protesters believed the base was being used to further the Iraq war.

The trio were acquitted of criminal charges in 2010, but the court found them liable for damages.

The attorney-general filed trespass charges and sought the cost of repairs to the facility, put at $1.2m.

The civil lawsuit was won in the High Court and the men had their appeal against it dismissed in October.

However, the Government announced yesterday it was no longer suing the men for the money.

The attorney-general has not commented on why the lawsuit has been dropped.

The Green Party welcomed the government decision.

Security and intelligence spokesman Steffan Browning said it had been "vindictive" for the Government to seek the money in the first place.

"From the beginning, the Government should have respected the jury's decision that found the Waihopai Three not guilty and chosen not to pursue the activists for damages," Browning said.

"This whole process has been a waste of taxpayers' money.

"These activists were campaigning to close down Waihopai, a foreign spy base on New Zealand soil, as an attempt to advance the cause of peace and to draw attention to the spying activity of the GCSB."

Father Murnane, a Dominican friar in his early 70s, has not had a bank account for half a century.

All three said they had no money to pay damages.

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- The Marlborough Express

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