Taame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara have been sentenced to 2 and a-half years jail for possession of unlicensed firearms and Molotov cocktails. Urs Signer and Emily Bailey’s adjurned sentencing – and the suggestion of home detention – suggests further injustice to come.
This is a shameful end to a shameful process, a process that began with the Labour Government passing the Terrorism Suppression Act in the early 2002. At the time they assured the public that the laws would only be used for exceptional cases of real danger, all code words for ‘Muslim terror’ in the racist era of the ‘War on Terror’.
Then we were told in 2007 by newspaper editors, and pundits both right and ‘left’ (Chris Trotter and ‘Bomber’ Bradbury deserve mention in this context) to prepare ourselves for the revelations of horrific preparations for home-grown terrorism. Those pundits and editors it now seems were reading from a police-prepared script. There was no terrorist plot, except for the plot of Howard Broad and the Blueboys to terrorise a Maori town early in the morning. Over a dozen people had all the charges against them dropped; the Terrorism charges never made it to court. The whole case was a beat-up from start to finish.
Now Iti and Kemara are beginning what could be two years in jail. As political site No Right Turn points out, only 15% of Arms Act offenders are jailed, and then for an average of less than 10 months. The judge’s sentencing here is a clear political act, and an outrage. The judge mentioned one defendant’s “extreme anarchist views.” So now the sentencing is to reflect ‘thought crimes’ too!
The police are making ‘no apologies’ for theircollapsed case, though, and, as for Iti’s jailing, we imagine the pundits and editors won’t see it as a big deal. What’s one more Maori in prison in this structurally racist system?
Annette Sykes from the MANA movement sums up the situation, and provides vital historical context, and inspiration for resistance:
“Today is a sad day for justice in Aotearoa. There is no way that Tame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara should have been jailed for two and a half years.
The decision today is a case of history repeating itself. In 1916 Tuhoe Prophet Rua Kenana was found not guilty for treason by a jury.
Despite the verdict, the judge concerned found him guilty of resisting arrest and sentenced him to one year hard labour, followed by 18 months imprisonment. The jury were so incensed over the harshness of the sentence, they submitted a petition and had the sentence reduced.
Tame and Te Rangikaiwhiria, much like their tipuna Rua Kenana, have been wrongfully imprisoned and their sentence will be subject to a number of appeals.
The real criminals in this case are still walking around as free individuals – the police who entered the community of Ruatoki without permission.
MANA will do everything in its power to achieve justice for the people of Ruatoki.”
Free Taame Iti and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara!