Monday, October 15, 2007
Around 17 people were arrested and a number of guns and weapons were seized earlier this morning (NZDT) at “terrorist” training camps and anarchist group homes following raids by the New Zealand Police around the country. The raids were under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002 and Arms Act.
The raids, conducted by over 300 armed police officers, focused on indigenous M?ori and environmental activists, including activist Tame Iti. Iti faces eight counts relating to firearms, including having a semi-automatic shotgun and two molotov cocktails. He is well known in New Zealand for many high profile cases, including a sedition charge for shooting the New Zealand flag, for which he was later acquitted, during Waitangi day in 2005.
Police Commissioner Howard Broad said that those targeted were from various ethnicities and from different motivations.
Commissioner Broad said, “It was military-style activity they were training for”, adding that he did not believe “protest activity involves firearms or other weapons.” One training camp raided by police was “guerilla-style” in the Urewera mountain ranges. Guns, ammunition and grenades were found in the camp.
No one has yet been charged with a crime against the Terrorism Suppression Act, only with charges relating to the Arms Act. “[The Police] are proceeding with full care in talking to people and assessing information before we can determine whether there is sufficient evidence to seek the consent of the Attorney General through the Solicitor General to charge anyone under [the Terrorism Suppression Act],” Commissioner Broad said. “This is the first time that the Terrorism Suppression Act has been considered in terms of an operation.”
Warrants were executed in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland; the capital, Wellington; Christchurch; Palmerston North and towns in the Eastern Bay of Plenty region. The warrants were issued under the Summary Proceedings Act, which allows searching for evidence of committing an offence against the Terrorism Suppression and Arms acts.
The police were informed of the existence of the camps by hunters who stumbled across a training operation being conducted by the groups. The raids were undertaken after evidence was gathered during 2006 and 2007 and followed months of police work. Police had infiltrated the camps, and taken video footage of weapons training. Phone and text message communications and conversations between suspects were recorded. Commissioner Broad said, “Based on the information and the activity known to have taken place, I decided it was prudent that action should be taken in the interests of public safety.”. Reports have indicated a specific threat to the Prime Minister, Helen Clark, was involved.
Prime Minister Helen Clark was briefed on the raids last week by police but refused to comment to reporters earlier today.
Those who have been arrested and appeared in court today were given interim name suppression.