Tame Iti's release from prison feels like the nearly six-year ordeal is nearing an end, his son says.
Iti was released on parole about 5.30am today (Wed) having served nine months of a two and a half year prison sentence. He was found guilty during a trial last year of six firearms charges and not guilty of four, stemming from a police raid in the Urewera Ranges that led to the arrest of 18 Tuhoe activists.
"Sure it's been nine months in jail, but it's actually been six years of having to deal with the case in general so we feel like we're finally getting towards the end of it," Iti's son, Wairere Iti, told Newstalk ZB this morning.
"There's still the Supreme Court and that kind of thing, and it has at times been quite trying - the sentencing particularly."
The Parole Board decision said Iti had shown leadership qualities in prison, and was described as a role model prisoner.
"The whole time he was in there he was working with other inmates. He was in the Maori focus unit there, so ... he was able to contribute to that kind of stuff really easily, obviously, and be a good influence to some of the inmates," Wairere Iti said.
His father posted a picture this morning on Twitter of himself enjoying a cappuccino, with the caption: "An early rise this morning to meet with my whanau in kihikihi. It feels good to be out ... Now where is my cappuccino."
Iti and his whanau are heading to Hukanui Marae, near Hamilton, where a private powhiri will be held followed by a formal powhiri attended by about 50 guests, including Mana Party leader Hone Harawira and Maori Party MP Te Ururoa Flavell.
He will then be taken to his hometown Ruatoki, where he is to live as a condition of his parole.
Iti's co-offender, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, will also be released next week.
The Parole Board said Kemara had also been an "exemplary" prisoner".
During their sentencing in the High Court at Auckland last May, Justice Rodney Hansen said the only appropriate sentence could be one of jail. He described the rama or camps where people were trained in military exercises.
While defence lawyers had said the camps had been opportunities to learn bushcraft and skills to get security work, Justice Hansen said the jury rejected those explanations.
"In my view, they were utterly implausible."
Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms charges and were sentenced to nine months' home detention at their home in Parihaka, Taranaki.