Matt McCarten on politics

Matt McCarten is a Herald on Sunday political columnist

Matt McCarten: Urewera trial delay to hide egg on faces

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The police in action in the Ureweras during the so-called 'terror raids'. Photo / NZ Herald
The police in action in the Ureweras during the so-called 'terror raids'. Photo / NZ Herald

Remember those domestic terrorists who were discovered right under our noses in the Ureweras nearly four years ago?

Well, the court case against them, which was to start on the 30th of this month, is falling apart. On Thursday the courts announced the case had been delayed another year.

Insiders tell me the priority for the anti-terrorism unit and the police hierarchy is to continue to drag the whole matter out as long as they can.

There is a strong possibility that if the Supreme Court suppresses or dismisses some of the police evidence (which is likely) the prosecutors can then claim on that basis they can't proceed with the case.

That will give them an excuse to apply to have everything permanently suppressed. That way they get all the senior players who started this nonsense off the hook.

But we shouldn't forget what they did. Former prime minister Helen Clark, the police commissioner Howard Broad and the entire anti-terrorism unit hyped themselves into believing a secret cell was about to launch a terror campaign against the citizens of this country.

They signed off sending 300 police dressed up in SWAT uniforms to raid houses and detain innocent citizens, search school buses and cordon off a whole town.

The "terrorists" were held mostly in solitary confinement for a month.

As I've argued previously, the local cops should have been asked to pop up and see the so-called terrorist leader, Tame Iti, take his guns off him and serve him a summons to appear in court.

Then they should have sent uniformed cops to visit all the suspects at home and give them formal warnings for running around the bush with weapons.

It would have saved us a fortune and prevented egg hardening on the faces of all the players involved.

Instead we found that within weeks of the arrests the wheels started coming off the Keystone Cops wagon.

The solicitor-general read the police evidence and threw the whole terror nonsense out. The police were left with charging the suspects with breaches of gun laws.

Clark stood by her cops, of course, as she was the person who authorised the raids. Selective snippets from the secret charges were leaked to the media, clearly by insiders, to keep the hysteria levels up.

But at the same time it seems our spooks were telling the United States Embassy that the most they could get on the arrestees were fines but no jail time. The maximum fine for the charges against the arrestees is $4000. All the millions of hours in police and court time will result, at best, with some of the arrestees being fined a couple of grand at most. What a joke.

This is so different to what our elites wanted.

At the time of the raids they were wetting themselves with excitement about becoming part of the international brotherhood fighting terrorism. Instead, they are a laughing stock.

The US ambassador in Wellington, when cabling his superiors in Washington, clearly had a better grasp of the fiasco than any of the media have reported. You can see his whole cable on http://tinyurl.com/6cnwjzo.

Even this column gets a mention by the good ambassador. He quotes my previous statement that I "never thought that there was a need for the Terrorism Suppression Act and believe that it was motivated by our establishment's need to be seen by our international allies to be doing our bit for George Bush's war on terror".

My opinion hasn't changed. Normal criminal laws would have sufficed.

However, the ambassador might like to correct his files as he describes me as a former left-wing Member of Parliament.

That's a low blow. I'm a left-winger, of course, but have never been guilty of being a parliamentarian.

Even a terrorist appeaser like me has some standards.

- Herald on Sunday

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