Key Points:

Fresh charges are to be laid against some of those seized in the Urewera police raids - more than a year after they were arrested.

Five of the 18 people arrested during the nationwide operation last October are to face new allegations of participating in a criminal gang.

One of the five is Maori activist Tame Iti.

The charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and has angered supporters of the accused, who claim the Government is trying to save face after failing in an attempt to bring charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

Seventeen of the 18 defendants charged with firearms offences were committed to trial last month.

They were alleged to have participated in weapons-training camps at various locations around the country.

But the Crown has added new charges of participating in a criminal gang in a draft indictment sent to lawyers of five of the accused.

The new charge would be laid under section 98A of the Crimes Act and is expected to be added to the list of charges the five already face.

Because it is more serious than the firearms charges, it will have to be heard in the High Court.

A group called Justice Now Collective, which is supporting the accused and their families, last night reacted angrily to the new charges saying they were "a desperate attempt by the Government to save face after the Solicitor-General found insufficient evidence to bring charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act".

Police originally wanted to charge all of the accused with offences under the Terrorism Suppression Act but that was not allowed by Solicitor-General David Collins, QC, who said the legislation was flawed.

Instead police laid firearms-related charges under the Arms Act.

All but one of the 18 who were originally charged were committed to trial on those charges at a depositions hearing in the Auckland District Court last month.

More than 300 charges were heard at that hearing.

Some charges, relating to three of the alleged camps, were dismissed by Judge Mark Perkins, who found there was insufficient evidence to support them.

But Crown Prosecutor Ross Burns said last night the crown would be re-laying those charges in the same indictment with the new charges.

Justice Now Collective spokeswoman Sally Darity criticised that decision.

"This is part of a systematic attack on Maori communities," she said.

"The Government's support of the war on terrorism in the passage of a raft of anti-terrorism laws and expanded police and Security Intelligence Service budgets confirm their agenda to control the population through surveillance and brutal repression of any genuine dissent."

The Crown is entitled to reinstate charges if it believes there is sufficient evidence to support them, as not all available evidence is presented at a depositions hearing.

The other four defendants facing the new charge are Emily Bailey, Urs Signer, Tuhoi Lambert and Whiri Kemara.

* October 15, 2007: Police raid several properties including suspected weapons-training camps. Several people are arrested on firearms charges, with the possibility of more serious charges being laid under anti-terrorism laws.
* November 8, 2007: Solicitor General David Collins, QC, rules against the police's application to charge the accused under the Terrorism Suppression Act.
* October 17, 2008: Charges are dropped against one of the accused, Rongomai Pero Bailey. The remaining 17 are on bail awaiting trial.
* October 28: After a month of depositions hearings, the Crown issues an indictment charging five of the accused with participation in a criminal gang under the Crimes Act.