New Zealand: 'Anti-terror' raids condemned
Two-hundred people protested outside the Wellington District Court on October 17 to protest the arrest of four Wellington men appearing in the court following massive police raids on the homes of many social activists two days earlier, according to a NarcoNews.com article by Julie Web-Pullman. Aotearoa Indymedia reported on October 17 that 80 people protested in Christchurch and 30 in Melbourne on October 16, and 50 protested in Rotorua and 30 in Sydney the following day.
Further protests on both sides of the Tasman are being planned to coincide with court hearings for those arrested. The police raids across New Zealand led to 17 arrests under New Zealand's "anti-terror" laws.
More than 300 police, many armed, carried out a series of raids on the morning of October 15 targeting Maori activists as well as other social movement activists. According to an October 15 New Zealand Herald article, search warrants, carried out under the 2002 Suppression of Terrorism Act, were executed in Whakatane, Ruatoki, Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Palmerston North and Hamilton.
NarcoNews.com reported that activists continued to be called in for questioning by police the following day. This prompted Aotearoa Indymedia to advise its readers to ensure they have a lawyer present if called in by police, and to exercise their right to silence. Prominent Maori activist Tami Iti was among those arrested, and a range of Maori rights, environmental and peace organisations have been implicated.
Police, who claim the operation was the result of many months of investigation, report that firearms had been seized in the raids and allege that they have broken up a "guerrilla training camp", where a range of weapons have been used, and even that a napalm bomb had been exploded. However a range of social justice and human rights organisations have strongly condemned the raids and the use of the anti-terror laws.
The NZ Herald reported, "Christchurch-based environmental lobbyist and anti-mining group Save Happy Valley Coalition appears to have been targeted in this morning's raids". Coalition spokesperson Frances Mountier said police arrived without a search warrant and so were sent away.
NarcoNews.com noted, however, that "Ruatoki women were not so lucky — they reported having their door smashed in and their children herded into another room by armed police. An elderly woman had a gun held to her head, while another was locked in her garage for six hours while police searched her property." Web-Pullman reported that two peace activists from the Wellington Zapatista Support Committee "were among the supposed 'terrorists'".
Sam Buchanan, one of the four arrested in Wellington following a raid on an anarchist organising centre, told the NZ Herald he was in disbelief at the charges, as he was a pacifist. Buchanan told the NZ Herald that, during the raid, police smashed a glass door he is expected to replace himself. He commented, "It's been a very annoying morning".
The lawyer for Iti (who has been denied bail and remains in custody), Louis Tekani, said his client had been woken and taken from his home at 4am, according to an October 15 Sydnye Morning Herald article. He strongly denied his client had anything to do with terrorism, commenting that if the allegation "wasn't so serious it would be laughable".
According to the SMH, Rotorua lawyer Annette Sykes said the raids were "overkill" and reminiscent of "the invasions last century". She said she couldn't understand why the police had used the anti-terror laws in relation to the allegations against the activists, claiming: "They've screwed the people everywhere."
NarcoNews.com reported that Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell said a small rural community in his electorate was placed "under siege" by the police. "The Maori families living in my electorate feel unduly harassed by the number of search warrants imposed, the charges laid and the intimidation they believe they have experienced."
Social justice organisation Global Peace and Justice Auckland argued: "Police allegations of terrorism ... are trumped up to create the right political environment to pass the latest so-called anti-terrorism bill currently before parliament." The organisation argued that the "talk of terrorism is nonsense" and expressed hope that "the public will see through this ruse".
NarcoNews.com noted: "Canterbury University academic and spokesperson for ARENA [a group opposed to corporate globalisation], David Small, who successfully sued the New Zealand police for illegally searching his home at the time of an APEC Conference in 1996, has labelled the police raids of the homes of social activists 'draconian and probably illegal'."
Christian World Service national director Jonathan Fletcher was quoted as saying, "New Zealand police have stepped way over the mark — they are creating fear in our communities and fanning the flames of racism against Maori and mistrust of legitimate activists".
The Unity Aotearoa blog of Socialist Worker New Zealand argued, "If this 'operation' has been planned for so long — who decided we should have a terror scare right now? Everyone interested in civil liberties and democracy in Aotearoa should be asking that question".