Urewera 18 trial charges dropped
All firearms charges against the "Urewera 18" arrested after police raids on alleged military training camps in the Ureweras have been dropped.
But four of the accused, including Tame Iti, will still stand trial on charges of participating in an organised crime group.
The Supreme Court has ruled certain evidence inadmissable at the so-called "terror raid" trial of next year which was set to last for three months.
This move is hardly a surprise: the writing had been on the wall since the raids among legal experts that the charges would be difficult to uphold. The case was a colossal waste of tax-payers' money and time and should have always been prosecuted under criminal law rather than under the Terrorism Suppression Act.
New Zealand seems to have a history of making state suppression look ridiculously carnivalesque: just try showing foreigners the photos of the clowns being beaten by the Red Squad during the 1981 Springbok Tour and you'll see what I mean. This case also seemed equally ludicrous: the idea of terrorists in the Ureweras - one of the most remote regions in New Zealand - was laughed at by many when the news broke, the interviews with people who attended the training camp who stated that their first priority was Maori resistance and second getting the high wages paid to security forces in Iraq, and then we let out the main terrorist suspect Tame Iti to go and perform in the Maori The Tempest in London in the middle of his trial.
Let's hope for everyone's sake that there is a rethink on this one. There should be an enquiry given that this is a case that did so much damage to race relations between Maori and Pakeha due to the presence of 300 police during the raids in Ruatoki, with a police stop that was on the very spot that marked the confiscation of Tuhoe land during the New Zealand wars. While this one could be written off politically as a case of post-9/11 paranoia, it does beg the question of where we draw the line on legislation.