Activist Tame Iti may have been jailed yesterday, but his fight continues with an appeal expected to be lodged on Monday.
The long running legal battle of the Urewera Four continues.
"It's probably the end of the beginning," said Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother. "There's a long way to go still."
Iti and co-defendant Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara were yesterday sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, after being convicted of five firearms charges, and one charge of unlawful possessing Molotov cocktails.
Their co-accused, Emily Bailey and Urs Signer, had their sentencing adjourned, but Justice Rodney Hansen indicated they would likely receive home detention.
Outside court, Fairbrother and Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti both said they would appeal the pair's sentences and convictions.
"I think the key issue is whether the police illegality in capturing the surveillance evidence should have been taken into account on sentencing," Bioletti said.
"The judge has ruled that he wouldn't take it into account, but that's a key issue that we'll be appealing because that could reduce the sentence."
In March it was reported that the case is already one of the most expensive in New Zealand's history, with legal aid and Crown costs estimated to be well over $6 million.
Bioletti said he thought the sentences handed down were "potentially destructive" to Tuhoe's already fragile relationship with the Crown.
Mana Party President Annette Sykes agreed, saying the sentences were a case of history repeating itself.
"In 1916 Tuhoe Prophet Rua Kenana was found not guilty for treason by a jury. Despite the verdict, the judge concerned found him guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced him to one year hard labour, followed by 18 months imprisonment. The jury were so incensed over the harshness of the sentence, they submitted a petition and had the sentence reduced."
Iti's son Wairere, who attended the sentencing, said he felt Tuhoe was ready to look to the future.
"I personally think, I don't speak for Tuhoe, the kaumatua and the elders of Tuhoe have an understanding that Tuhoe in general need to look forward to the future and they need to be able to look to the rangitahi, to the youth, and make sure that Tuhoe is strong. I don't believe the door is ever closed, just we have to find that way we can make it all work."
He said he did not think justice was served, and maintained his father had done nothing wrong.
"I think we've been pretty open about what it is that's been happening. Guns and how they're used in that particular part of the country, they live in the bush. Maybe there's the odd dog that isn't licensed, same as there's no gun license. That doesn't mean they're trying to take down the government."
Justice Hansen roundly rejected any innocent explanation of the group's training camps.
"As I view the evidence, in effect, a private militia was being established. Whatever the justification, that is a frightening prospect in our society, undermining of our democratic institutions and anathema to our way of life."
Justice Hansen said there was no excuse for criminal offending even when a group has "altruistic motives".
He said in different circumstances the four would likely have faced five to six years in prison.
"But I regard it as highly relevant that the offending was not gang-related or associated with what I might call 'conventional' avenues of criminal activity. On the contrary, it occurred in pursuit of a worthy ideal and, perhaps most significantly, involved only a remote risk that it would lead to crimes of violence."
Police Commissioner Peter Marshall yesterday expressed regret for the impact the Urewera investigation had on the community of Ruatoki, but said he made "absolutely no apology" for conducting the investigation.
"We had no option but to act in the interests of public safety. However I'm very sorry that innocent individuals, families and a community were frightened and inconvenienced when search warrants were executed in October 2007."
An Independent Police Conduct Authority report into police conduct during "Operation 8" is near to completion.
Chair of the Authority, Judge Sir David Carruthers, said it will be made public as soon as "reasonably possible".
Carruthers said the Authority is waiting on further police response to issues raised in a draft report, and the report's progress has been affected by delays on the High Court trial.
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