PM: activists 'trained to use napalm'

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The activists rounded up in police anti-terror raids had been training to use napalm, Prime Minister Helen Clark confirmed yesterday.
Name suppression decision to be made on Wednesday
Politicians playing the race card - Horomia

Clark's comment yesterday – that those arrested "at the very least" had been training with firearms and napalm – was also unusual, in that she was discussing cases currently before the courts.

Police yesterday announced they had sought permission from Solicitor-General David Collins to lay terrorism-related charges against activists arrested in dawn raids two weeks ago.

After reviewing the evidence gathered in the nationwide raids and a year-long surveillance operation, police said they thought they had a case under the Suppression of Terrorism Act.

"It has been referred to the Solicitor-General for consideration whether consent will be given to charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act," Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope said.

Pope said police would make no further comment until Collins' decision was referred back to them.

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Clark refused to be drawn on whether those arrested were involved in terrorism.

She dismissed allegations by the Maori Party that the Government was conspiring with police to target Maori sovereignty activists, saying such a move would be illegal.

But she said she had been briefed by police and it was plain those arrested had been training with napalm – something police have not officially confirmed.

Clark lashed out at the Maori Party for calling for senior minister Trevor Mallard to be prosecuted after he punched an opposition MP last week while defending those arrested in the raids.

"I find it absolutely extraordinary that the Maori Party on the one hand is demanding police prosecute Trevor Mallard for assault and on the other is claiming people, who at the very least have illicitly used firearms, constructed molotov cocktails and trained themselves in how to use napalm, should not be charged," Clark said.

"How does any of that make sense?"

Following the police announcement, the Maori Party reined in its strong criticism made at its annual conference over the weekend, saying it would reserve comment until all the evidence was revealed.

"We stand by our responsibility to our constituency, to speak up and make known the traumatic impact that various stages of the operation have had on community wellbeing," co-leader Tariana Turia said.

"It is our contention that evidence could have been collected in a much less frightening and disruptive way to families and the wider public, and in a manner consistent with due legal process."

At least 17 people, including Maori, environmental and peace activists, were arrested during the October 15 raids.

The raids have caused heated debate in Parliament and division in communities around the country, with the Maori Party saying the raids were racist and that police heavy-handed.

The Green Party has also accused police of over-reacting.

Those arrested have so far only been charged under the Firearms Act, but police had said they were considering charges under the as yet untested anti-terrorism laws passed in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The raids were the culmination of a year-long surveillance operation against alleged training camps in Urewera mountains in the Bay of Plenty.

During the raids, police confiscated a haul of arms and military-style equipment, including assault rifles and molotov cocktails.

Unconfirmed sources also said a napalm bomb had been tested.

The Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 makes it a criminal offence to take part in, finance or recruit for a terrorist organisation or terrorist act.

Planning a terrorist act, or making a "credible threat", is also illegal, even if the act is not carried out.

Unlike other countries the law does not give police additional powers of arrest or detain.

The search warrants used in the raids said police were looking for material that might result in terrorism charges.

Under the act, Attorney-General Michael Cullen must give the green light to any prosecutions, but he has delegated the responsibility to the Solicitor-General.

Police have yet to make public the vast majority of the evidence, prompting allegations of racist motivations from Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples.

The Press