Prominent Maori activist, Tame Iti is one of dozens of activists arrested this morning in raids across several areas of New Zealand.
Mr Iti’s home was raided at 4.00 am and he was taken into custody.
Police are saying the raids were to thwart an alleged terrorist plot involving Indigenous and peace activists who had been training with live ammunition at several remote properties across the North Island.
The home of environmental activist Frances Mountier was also raided in Christchurch, but as police did not have a warrant, they were refused entry.
Civil liberties groups have condemned the raids as ‘draconian’.
There’s no clear picture yet of why the mass arrests have taken place, but police are saying that charges may well be laid under anti-terrorism legislation.
This media release was issued around lunchtime today, by lawyer David Small.
Spycatcher Calls Police Raids Draconian
Monday, 15 October 2007, 2:43 pm
Press Release: David Small
15th October 2007
Spycatcher Calls Police Raids Draconian and Probably Illegal
The man who successfully sued police for illegally searching his home at the time of an APEC Conference in 1996 has labelled police raids of the homes of social activists this morning as draconian and probably illegal. Canterbury University academic and spokesperson for ARENA, David Small, said the police seem to have learnt nothing from Justice Young’s judgment condemning the police for failing to distinguish between political and criminal activity.
Dr Small says that for search warrants to be legal, the police must have reasonable grounds to believe that they will find what they are searching for. These raids look much more like a fishing expedition.
Dr Small, who addressed a public meeting in Christchurch last Thursday on state security and surveillance, expressed particular concern about the use of the Terrorism Suppression Act in association with the raids.
“The public has been softened up with the threat of Islamic terrorism to give massive increases in the powers and resources of intelligence and security agencies. But it is now clear that the focus of their attention is really on social activists in New Zealand,” said Dr Small
This is exactly what happened in 1996 when opponents of the SIS Amendment Act were called paranoid for saying it would be used against local groups, and less than two weeks later, the SIS were caught breaking into an activist’s home.
“Democratic societies need free and open debate. And groups engaging in this kind of critical activity need the law to protect their rights to do so. Today’s raids have the opposite effect and are clearly designed to intimidate and silence these voices of dissent,” said Dr Small