The 18 defendants in the so-called ‘Terror Raids’ trial are being denied a jury trial. “We are being railroaded by the crown and judiciary and there is no way that we can get a fair trial. This is an egregious miscarriage of justice,” says Valerie Morse, defendant in the case.

The Auckland High Court ruled this week that the defendants are to be tried before a judge alone, despite pleas to have a trial by jury. The Crown has dragged out the case at every opportunity in order to wear down the defendants and force them into long and expensive legal battles in the hope that the public will forget about the case and ultimately to force the defendants to plead guilty to end this nightmare.

“We are continually having to fight for our most basic rights in this case. The Government is doing everything in their power to deny us a trial by jury. A jury would quickly see through the police spin that has surrounded this case, which is why the crown wants a judge alone to hear the case.” said Ms Morse.

The highest lawyer in this country, Solicitor-General David Collins, said in November 2007 that there was no case under the Terrorism Suppression Act, yet more than three years later the crown continues to relentlessly pursue Tame Iti and 17 other activists in an unabashed crushing of political dissent and aspirations for tino rangatiratanga.

The Terror Raids trial follows a long history of political and racial discrimination in New Zealand’s court system. When the people of Parihaka pulled out survey pegs to stop the theft of their land, they were imprisoned indefinitely under the Maori Prisoners Trials Act 1879 so that the theft could continue unhindered. In 1916, following the armed invasion of the Tuhoe community at Maungapohatu, Rua Kenana was forced to sell his land and cattle in order to pay for his court defence.

The changes to the criminal justice system are criminal. It was part 1 of the Criminal Procedures Bill, passed under the previous Labour government in 2007 that gave the Crown the right to apply for trial by judge alone. Previously only a defendant could request this. Now the government is intent on further removing the right to a jury, the right to silence, the right against self-incrimination, and has just taken away the right to vote for all prisoners. This is not a democracy, let us not delude ourselves any longer.

The October 15th Solidarity group reiterates its demand that these charges must be dropped.

ENDS

Notes:
1. 18 people are facing charges under the Arms Act. Five of the defendants also face a ridiculous charge for ‘participation in an organised criminal group’.

2. Of the 18 defendants, 13 are Maori. They whakapapa to several iwi: Tuhoe, Taranaki, Maniapoto, Te Ati Awa, Ngapuhi and others.

3. The raids took place on 15th October 2007 and the defendants spent up to one month in jail.

4. A book has recently been published by Rebel Press with the stories by people (including some of the defendants) affected by the raids. It can be downloaded for free as a PDF at http://www.rebelpress.org.nz/publications/day-raids-came

5. Visit www.October15thSolidarity.info for information. You can also email info@october15thsolidarity.info to get in touch with the October 15th Solidarity group.

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