Drop the Charges against Political Activists in New Zealand
The International League of Peoples' Struggle (ILPS) welcomes the announcement that 13 of the 17 defendants in the so called ‘terror raids’ trial in New Zealand have had all their charges dropped. We call for all the charges against the remaining four defendants to also be dropped.
On the 15th of October 2007, 300 armed police raided homes across New Zealand. The police made sensational claims that members of the Maori sovereignty environmental and anti-war movements were planning terrorist attacks. Armed police blockaded the small Bay of Plenty town of Ruatoki, forcing entire families, including children, from their homes at gunpoint and detaining them in sheds without access to food, water or toilet facilities.
Eighteen political activists were arrested and were held for nearly a month in prison, while the Police applied to the Solicitor General for permission to charge them under the Terrorism Suppression Act. Protests were held around the country demanding the activists’ freedom and for an end to Police persecution of dissent. Sections of the media and politicians including then Prime Minister, Helen Clark, engaged in a fear mongering campaign to demonise the arrestees before they had been before a court.
The activists were released after the Solicitor General refused the Police permission to use the Terrorism Suppression Act.
However, the Police continued pursue baseless charges of illegal possession of a firearm under the Arms Act against the defendants. One defendant has passed away in the time since his initial arrest.
The charges of 13 of the defendants were finally dropped on the 12th of September 2011, after the Supreme Court declared the Police’s evidence inadmissible because it was gathered illegally. However, spurious charges of illegal procession of a firearm and participation in a criminal gang are still being pursued against the remaining four defendants. Their trial is due to start on February 13th 2012.
The ILPS calls for all the remaining charges to be dropped and for an end to police harassment of political dissent in New Zealand.