Anyone still interested in whether those arrested on October 15th, 2007, and quickly labelled in the media as “terrorists”, were treated fairly?
I say still, because of course those arrested, while not being charged under the Terrorism Suppression Act despite literally years of surveillance, still face a variety of charges, due finally to be heard in court at the end of next month. Finally. After three and a half years.
That’s a long time to maintain interest, unless you’re one of those arrested, or connected to one of those arrested. Despite the fact this trial is perhaps up there as one of the most important political trials to have taken place in Aotearoa.
If you are interested, get yourself down to a documentary about the case. I went to the first showing of Operation 8 and it was fury-inducing.
The arrests in Ruatoki – a place I cycled through last year on a wild trip through Te Urewera, shaking my head in complete disbelief that anyone could think it was a thriving hub of terrorism – and the shameful way Maori were treated. The connections between those arrested – lives of activism on progressive issues. Those things we already knew.
But I hadn’t seen Solicitor General David Collins in court trying to prosecute Fairfax for contempt over their publishing of “the terrorism files”, and watched him struggling to get the sitting Judges to understand why cherry-picking incriminating quotes was a problem. Nor did I know that the threat to George Bush of assassination which DomPo editor Tim Pankhurst felt a “duty to publish” was a dastardly plan to catapault a bus onto Bush’s head. Terrifying terrorist alright.
I thought then, and still do, that the DomPo’s behaviour around this case was irresponsible and cynical. Drumming up support for the Police actions without contextualising those actions.
Listening to a former undercover Police officer talk about planting evidence and lying in order to convict was chilling. Looking at the sheer volume of invasion into these people’s lives was mind-blowing. Hearing that the last lot of evidence submitted by the Police was dated mid March this year.
This is a film New Zealanders should watch, should debate, should argue over. Do we want dissent criminalised? Is disagreeing with the state a reason to have your life monitored, bugged, recorded? What are the costs when we accept this?
And what about the costs to these particular defendants? I thought Emily Bailey summed it up with brutal clarity when she said the arrests had made her feel scared about her activism. I don’t think she’s alone, and I think all New Zealanders should find that terrifying.