ACT leader David Seymour says police euthanasia raids 'politically motivated'
Police raids on a group of elderly suspected to have illegally imported euthanasia drugs have raised questions over political motivation, ACT leader David Seymour says.
Two elderly Wellington woman were the subjects of a police raid earlier this month, and police have confirmed a Lower Hutt woman was arrested and faces two charges of importing a class C.
There are claims that "Operation Painter" was targeted at members of a global group called Exit International.
Euthanasia campaigner and Exit International director Philip Nitschke said the raids were "designed to intimidate and frighten".
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Seymour, who has a members bill in the ballot that would legalise euthanasia - has questioned whether police were acting on the tipoff of someone who was ideologically opposed.
He said it raised "serious questions" about police treatment of a politically sensitive issue.
"With rates of burglary and assault going up, this is a baffling use of police resources. And putting an elderly woman in the cells for a non-violent offence is a gratuitous use of intimidation tactics.
"Even if it's just the one group that's been targeted, there's a concerning possibility that other assisted dying campaigners will feel intimidated, with less confidence to campaign publicly," he said.
With a parliamentary inquiry into euthanasia underway, Seymour said police needed to ensure New Zealanders could make submissions to Parliament "without fear of attracting undue search and surveillance".
The inquiry, while it won't result in any law change, has attracted a record 23,000 submissions.
"These raids on peaceful New Zealanders raise some serious questions. Who was the complainant? How did police get a warrant? Were any politicians, including the Minister, briefed?" said Seymour.
The raids only proved that there needed to "be a safe, legal way for people suffering terminal or irremediable illnesses to choose the time of their own death".
Wellington City Area Commander Inspector Chris Bensemann said the welfare of the people involved was their "top priority".
"Police are acutely aware of the interest in the sensitive nature of the investigations.
"However, we have broader responsibilities to the Coroner and need to keep this in mind when conducting investigations and considering what comment to make in public," he said.
Police were not in a position to comment further while investigations were ongoing.
"What we can say is that Police are acting with compassion in regards to those people involved."