Justice for the Urewera Four!

The most expensive case in New Zealand history, and for what? Millions of dollars have been spent on a vindictive and farcical prosecution, at the cost of untold stress, emotional harm and upset for the people of Tuhoe. In February we called the treatment of the Urewera Four an “anti-democratic outrage”, and stand by that today. The police case continued for reasons of malice and political mischief – there were gains to be made in creating a ‘terror’ threat. Tuhoe, yet again, have borne the burden for that.

A police officer responsible for the case was quoted on National Radio this morning as saying he ‘wasn’t hung up’ on jury decisions. Well he might say this; in 2007 the police tried to make out that they had busted up an imminent terrorist threat. As the months and years went on plank after plank of their lurid War on Terror fantasy fell away. All that is left now are a gaggle of firearms charges, and even many of those were thrown out by the jury.

Commentator Morgan Godfrey gets it right:

The government and the Police owe Tuhoe an apology. Ruatoki was attacked, and I deliberately use the word attacked, as school buses were searched by armed police, kaumatua and kuia were illegally detained, men and women were man handled and mistreated all for a few firearm charges. Charges that are so remote from what the Police were alleging. It’s a sorry affair.

Hone Harawira calls the decision “justice denied”, and reminds us of vital context:

Yesterday should have been about the triumph of justice, but it wasn’t. All we got a sad and sorry end to a tragic raid into the heartland of the Tuhoe because after all the drama, the high expectation and grainy videos, yesterday the jury could only return guilty verdicts on firearms charges. That’s all we got after a four year campaign that cost the taxpayers millions of dollars, divided the nation, and gave people genuine reason to fear the police.

Because today, justice is still denied to the people of Tuhoe.

Today the case may finally be over but not for the people of Tuhoe. There has been no apology, no compensation, no change in police operations and no new engagement policy initiated as a result of the litany of errors we now know as Operation 8.

Today we remember those who have passed on since 2007. Today we remember the pain and suffering brought upon the people of Tuhoe by the state … again.

Today I commit the energy and the support of the MANA Movement to standing against those who would use the Terrorism Suppression Act and the Search and Surveillance Bill to crush independent thinking, to force us to fear what we say and to hide what we do and to stop us from choosing freedom over oppression.

And today I salute Tame Iti and his comrades for their dignity, for their courage, for their passion and for their love for this land.

This trial was the latest in a long history of frame-ups and politically-motivated prosecutions aimed at damaging and disrupting the movement for Tino Rangatiratanga. Attacks in the past have never succeeded in destroying that movement. This one won’t either.

Tuhoe deserve full compensation and an apology from the government and the police for the outrages carried out in Ruatoki.

The struggle continues.

 

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