Slow progress at 'anti-terror' deps hearing

01:43, Jan 31 2009
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Protesters gather outside Aucklnd District Court ahead of a depositions hearing for those arrested in controversial anti-terrorism raids last October.

The legal process to determine whether 18 people arrested in last year's so-called anti-terror raids should stand trial looks set to be a drawn out affair as a depositions hearing began today.

There was a heavy police presences as the accused, who face firearms and other charges following police raids in the eastern Bay of Plenty in October last year, appeared in Auckland District Court.

The hearing could take at least a month with the charges being read out in Maori, as well as English.

Among the six who had their charges read out today was veteran activist Tame Iti, who faces 27 charges.

Under the Maori Language Act, court proceedings can be translated into Maori and at least one accused has applied to have his charges read in English and then translated to Maori.

Judge Mark Perkins told defence counsel he was happy to give a liberal interpretation of the Maori Language Act but only for the charges and only for Maori defendants.

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Iti thanked the judge in Maori and acknowledged his supporters in attendance from Tuhoe in the court.

Police have alleged Iti was running military-styled training camps in the Urewera Ranges.

However, the Solicitor-General ruled against the application from police to charge him and others under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

The other five defendants who had their charges read out in court today were Emily Bailey, who faces 30 charges; Ira Bailey 11 charges; Rongomai Bailey four charges; Rawiri Iti 27 charges and Omar Hamed, with 31 charges.

A small number of supporters in the public gallery applauded after each defendant stood to hear his or her charges read out.

The loudest applause was saved for Hamed, prompting Judge Perkins to issue a warning to the gallery.

"If there is a repetition of the barracking from the back of the court I'll clear it and you won't come back for the rest of the hearing."

No pleas were entered by any of the defendants.

Tomorrow the remaining 12 defendants will have their charges read out before legal arguments are expected to be made by defence lawyers to bar all media coverage of the proceedings.

One of the 18 failed to appear and Judge Perkins issued a warrant for his arrest.

Tame Iti's lawyer, Annette Sykes, told the court she understood the defendant was at a tangi which Iti was travelling to this evening.

Judge Perkins agreed to stay the warrant until midday tomorrow.

Despite the high profile coverage of previous court appearances by the accused, only a handful of supporters were protesting outside the court with banners.

 - NZPA