Urewera trial: Apology followed shots, court told

A teenager who was blindfolded and searched at gunpoint at an alleged military-training camp in the Urewera Range was apologised to afterwards, he told a court.

The man, who was 16 in January 2007 when he was allegedly taken to the "camp" – and his brother who was 14 at the time – gave evidence at the trial of the "Urewera four" in the High Court at Auckland yesterday.

Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Signer have pleaded not guilty to charges of illegal possession of firearms and participation in an organised criminal group.

The witness said a personal trainer whom the pair knew asked them to go to Ruatoki with him to help do a presentation on fitness and health.

The two teenagers drove to the area with the man, and were collected by Iti, who drove them to a nearby house.

They were given cloths to put over their faces, and to use as blindfolds.

"Just to protect our identities, or something like that," the man, who has name suppression, told the court.

Iti, the boys and the personal trainer then left again in Iti's car.

"We were stopped at a set-up roadblock – there was a log across the road. And a man behind it holding a gun and a stick. He fired some shots into the air and asked us to get out of the car."

The man said there were about 10 or 11 people there, and he saw about four guns.

He was told to lie on the ground, face down, and was searched.

The teens were then led to a campsite area.

"They apologised for what they did to us," the man told the court.

He said the personal trainer gave a presentation on fitness to those gathered at the camp.

Bailey's lawyer, Val Nisbet, asked the man whether he knew that Iti and the trainer shared a vision of setting up a programme to give young Maori direction in life.

The man replied that he did.

The alleged camps took place near Ruatoki from late 2006 until October 2007.

The Crown allege the four accused were the ringleaders of military-style camps designed to train people to fight for the self-governance of the Tuhoe region.

But defence lawyers have told the jury to keep an open mind.

In brief opening addresses they raised questions about whether the people involved formed a cohesive "group", and said the alleged camps were wananga for teaching and learning.

Fairfax Media