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Crown Accused Of `Face Saving' Over New Urewera Charges

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Auckland, Oct 31 NZPA - Lawyers for five people likely to face new charges over the controversial police anti-terrorism raids are accusing the Crown of victimising the group.

The five, including veteran protester Tame Iti, were arrested in October last year after police raided property in the Ureweras in eastern Bay of Plenty.

Earlier this month, they were among 17 people committed for trial on firearms charges after a depositions hearing in Auckland District Court.

The Crown announced yesterday it now planned to lay new charges under the Crimes Act against Iti, Tuhoe Lambert, Whiri Kemara, Swiss national Urs Signer and Emily Bailey.

The Crown would allege they were participating in a criminal gang, a charge carrying a maximum jail term of five years.

Moana Jackson, a spokesman for the legal team representing the accused people, said it was an abuse of process and it would be a sad day if a group of protesters was labelled as a gang.

He said the authorities were now trying to save face after failing to charge those arrested with terrorism offences.

In October last year, police sought approval from Solicitor-General David Collins to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act.

However, the following month he announced he would not give permission for the charges because the Act they were laid under was flawed.

Auckland crown prosecutor Ross Burns said the new charges against the five would not be formally laid until it had been determined what court they would be heard in.

However, he stressed the law relating to those associating with gangs did not encompass legitimate protesters.

Mr Burns said it could be "some weeks at least" before he got a hearing date on the application to transfer the matter to the High Court and charges could not be formally laid until then.

He said some evidence in the firearms charges would be challenged, but that could only happen in the High Court and the Crown had applied to have all the proceedings transferred from the District Court to the High Court.

That application also included indictment details of the new charges.

"Until we know which court the hearing is in we won't be able to file the indictment," he said.

Mr Burns would not talk about the new charges other than to say the decision to lay the new charges was based on the evidence already before the district court.

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