'Urewera four' armed revolutionary leaders - Crown

08:13, Feb 14 2012
Urewera four trial
Supporters outside the High Court in Auckland ahead of the Urewera four trial.
Urewera four trial
Supporters outside the High Court in Auckland ahead of the Urewera four trial.
Urewera four trial
Supporters outside the High Court in Auckland ahead of the Urewera four trial.
Tame Iti
Tame Iti, one of four people accused in the Urewera case, speaks with Mana Party member and supporter John Minto outside the High Court at Auckland.
hone harawira
Mana Party leader Hone Harawira waits outside the High Court at Auckland to show support.
Tame Iti
Tame Iti, one of four people accused in the Urewera case, waits outside the High Court at Auckland before the trial begins.
Urewera trial
Supporters gather outside the High Court at Auckland as the Urewera trial begins.
Urewera trial
Media gathers as Tame Iti enters the High Court at Auckland for the Urewera trial.
Urewera trial
A supporter waits outside the High Court at Auckland as police supervise, before the Urewera trial begins.

Surveillance footage of a group allegedly training for armed revolution has been seen in court.

At the High Court in Auckland this morning, Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Signer - the "Urewera four" - were accused of being the ringleaders of the group.

They have pleaded not guilty to charges of illegal possession of firearms and participation in an organised criminal group.

Crown lawyer Ross Burns said during his opening address this morning that the group set up camps and engaged in "military-style" activities - training to kill for their cause of Maori governance of the Tuhoe region.

The camps were alleged to have taken place over the course of almost a year.

Burns said police had observed camps in November 2006, and January, April, June, August, September and October of 2007.

They are alleged to have taken place at various places in the Ruatoki area, not far from Whakatane.

Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and  Emily Bailey
UREWERA ACCUSED: Left to right: Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

ACTIVIST 'COMMITTED'

A defence lawyer for one of the Urewera four has questioned police motives for putting surveillance on a young political activist "committed" to social justice.

The defence lawyers for the Urewera four briefly addressed the jury this afternoon, urging them to keep an open mind.

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Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey
UREWERA ACCUSED: Left to right: Tame Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

Christopher Stevenson, lawyer of accused man Urs Signer, told the jury that during 2007 when the alleged Urewera training camps took place, his client had just finished a music degree at Victoria University.

Stevenson said Signer was in fact out of New Zealand during about a third of the time that the training camps were allegedly held.

He said there were several questions the jury needed to consider when deciding on the case, including:

* Was there really a criminal group in this case, or was there just a bunch of people, the membership of whom changed from time to time, with a myriad of thoughts and objectives and ideas?

* Why did the police have surveillance on a young activist who was committed to social justice and other "like-minded" people?

* What was Signer's role in attending the camps?

* Were they "training camps" or were they wanangas, devoted to teaching and learning?

Tame Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother said the jury needed to critically assess the Crown's evidence, and the sources it came from.

He said if the Crown said a particular statement was made by Iti, the jury needed to be satisfied that that was the case.

The lawyer also gave a brief history of the Tuhoe region.

Fairbrother told the court there was a "confiscation line" near Ruatoki, where many Tuhoe people were pushed off their land in 1866.

When police raided the alleged Urewera training camps, they were dressed in black, looked anonymous, and were armed "head to toe with guns", right on the confiscation line, Fairbrother said.

"You may think that's a metaphor for the land in which Mr Tame Iti works, lives and expresses himself," he said.

Rangikaiwhiria Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti told the jury that the concept of "objectives" or motives was important.

"If something's already occurred you can look at it, hold it up and look through it and say 'people must have had an objective to do that'."

Bioletti said in this case no serious violent objectives actually occurred, so the jury didn't have the benefit of looking at what happened to see whether the people allegedly involved had an objective.

Emily Bailey's lawyer Val Nisbet told the court his client was innocent of all the charges against her.

He said she was a person who is motivated to ensure the abused, oppressed and less fortunate members of society have a voice.

"She is one of those voices and she has been for a number of years."

'HE WASN'T PLAYING GAMES'

Earlier today, Burns read text messages to the court that he said were sent by Tuhoe Lambert, a man who was accused in the case but died in July last year.

One message, allegedly sent to Lambert's brother Kevin Lambert, asked if he had any friends who would be willing to "give their lives" for Tuhoe.

Kevin replied, ""Got two mates. Dumb as f***. Do anything for me. Can drive trucks, fly planes, got kids too."

Tuhoe Lambert's next message said: "Cheers cuz. The dumber the better."

Burns said that Lambert knew what he was doing, having been on two tours to Vietnam.

"He wasn't playing games. He was a grown man who knew what he was talking about. And what he was talking about was recruiting people to join cells in the city who would be willing to give their lives."

Burns said two boys were introduced to the camps by their personal trainer in January 2007.

He described how Iti drove them to the camp in his Pajero, and made them blindfold themselves.

Burns alleged that when they got to the camp they were pulled out of the car, put on the ground and searched at gunpoint.

There were shots fired, but when the boys returned to their feet they were assured it was a training exercise.

Burns said police had intercepted internet chatroom conversations between Kemara and an Auckland woman.

He alleges Kemara said to her: "noone wants to kill. We're training to kill because we'll probably have to."

The lawyer played a video to the court which was taken by hidden cameras planted by police at the site of one of the training camps.

It showed people walking through the bush holding guns and wearing tramping packs.

Burns said they were practising military manoeuvres like ducking when a hand signal was given from the person at the front of the pack.

Audio was also played to the court which Burns said was gunshots police recorded during a camp in June 2007.

ARMED REVOLUTIONARY ARMY

Burns said some of the places the camps took place were in open farmland, near a marae, schools and some houses.

He said in one case police had gathered footage of the group practicing evacuating a ute under fire, with one person holding a gun across the bonnet and others coming out from behind, running behind under cover.

He said the group wore disguises like balaclavas and scarves tied around their faces, so as not to be recognised by each other or members of the public.

The group used molotov cocktails as well as firearms, and when the police searched the camps they discovered a recipe of how to make a bomb so violent it could melt metal.

Burns said the group was "disparate", with some involved because they shared the political aims of Tame Iti, who wanted to claim the Tuhoe region for Maori.

"At least one of them was doing it simply because he had a chip on his shoulder and he didn't like anybody, particularly policemen."

Iti described the group as a "revolutionary army", and he had two plans to achieve his political aims, Burns said.

One plan - "Plan A" was to use diplomacy, but if that failed then they would use "Plan B" - achieving their aims "at the point of a gun", the lawyer told the court.

Up to 30 people were involved in the camps at various times.

Burns said the group planned to use "guerilla warfare", including kidnap and murder.

He said Rangikaiwhiria Kemara would supply the other members of the camps with arms.

He had a valid firearms licence, and police had footage of him loading up his truck with firearms to take to the camps, the lawyer said.

When his house was searched during the police raids, they found literature about revolutions and seizing control.

One pamphlet found was called "strategising for a revolution".

It gave instructions about blowing up communications systems as a revolutionary technique.

Burns said the case was "not about politics".

"In this country we do not prosecute people because of their beliefs. We prosecute them for what they do."

He said the jury would see and hear things during the course of the trial that had never been publicly released before.

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