Urewera accused 'training for lucrative security jobs' - defence

By Edward Gay

Tame Iti arrives at the Auckland High Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Tame Iti arrives at the Auckland High Court. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Covert police footage captured in the Urewera bush shows a group of people training for lucrative jobs in the security industry overseas - not urban warfare, a court has heard.

Tame Iti, Urs Signer, Emily Bailey and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara are on trial at the High Court at Auckland and are accused of being involved in military-style training camps.

They deny charges of possessing guns and belonging to an organised criminal group, with objectives including murder, arson and using guns against the police.

Kemara's lawyer Jeremy Bioletti said the use of firearms by the group was lawful because there was no criminal objective. Instead, they were training for jobs in the security industry.

"It is so people can be in the running for a higher wage than the dole, that's what it is about. Instead of working at Woolworths for the minimum wage that they have just put up by 50 cents, you can aspire to a better life.''

He said the leaders of the group should be congratulated for trying to better the lives of their people, not put on trial.

"The Crown case is Maori people plus guns equals crime or m + g = c as an equation.''

He said there was no violent crime carried out by the group and there was no training for urban warfare: "That's a silly idea.''

Mr Bioletti told the jurors they should consider the Crown's allegations.

"Have a look at it, then what you should do is kick it to the kerb. Apply your collective commonsense and return verdicts of not guilty.''

The trial is into its fifth week with the transcript of the evidence running to more than 1300 pages.

Mr Bioletti said it was the most important trial of his lifetime.

Earlier, Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother told the court Tuhoe's grievances with the Crown were being addressed for the first time in 120 years and his client would never do anything to harm that process.

Mr Fairbrother said Iti was a man who would live on in the history books of New Zealand but he only ever had a Plan A - supporting negotiations with the Crown.

"Why would you ever imagine Tame Iti has a Plan B? There is no logical reason you could conclude that. You might say: 'We don't really know it and he's got that moko' - that's not why you took your oath,'' he told the jurors.

He said the Crown's idea that Iti had a Plan B involving violence was "repugnant''.

Mr Fairbrother said Iti "lived and breathed Tuhoe'' and everyone in Ruatoki knew what he was doing in the bush.

``In fact Mr Iti's employer gave him time off to conduct the activities, time off to conduct insurrection?'' Mr Fairbrother asked the jurors.

"Not one person from Ruatoki, from any of the marae, came to support the Crown case - not even the local policeman''

Earlier today Crown prosecutor Ross Burns said Iti's Plan B involved a group that Iti himself referred to as the Revolutionary Wing of Aotearoa in a computer chatroom.

He said Iti probably did not want to jeopardise peaceful negotiations but no one knew what the outcome of Tuhoe's negotiations with the Crown would be.

"That's why he needed a back-up plan, if the negotiations didn't work, the Revolutionary Wing of Aotearoa was there,'' Mr Burns said.

He said evidence before the court showed Iti's co-accused Kemara had sympathies to the Tuhoe movement and an interest in revolutionary movements in other countries.

Mr Burns said Signer and Bailey were known to be committed to beliefs and were prepared to make sacrifices for them.

He said the couple became involved in Iti's group during 2006.

"The only other argument that can be raised seems to be based on what witnesses have said that 'I simply can't believe my eyes'.''

But Mr Burns told the jurors they had seen the images captured by covert police cameras in the bush, and had seen text messages and online chat conversations between the group members.

"It may be difficult for you to believe but I suggest you must believe because it's true. If it is true then the accused have committed the crimes that the Crown is alleging.''

Lawyers for Bailey and Signer are due to make their closing arguments tomorrow before Justice Rodney Hansen sums up the case on Thursday and asks the jurors to consider their verdicts.

- APNZ

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