Operation 8

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.

3 thoughts on “Operation 8

  1. Dissent has been criminalised in NZ for decades. The SIS illegally breaking into activists homes before the APEC meetings is just one example. Such break-ins were later made legal after two SIS agents got caught in the act. I also remember the break-in at the Electoral Reform Coalition offices just a few weeks prior to the 1993 referendum on MMP. Only computers were taken. No one was ever caught. There is a long list of such unsolved break-ins over the past 20 years…and they target dissenters / change agents almost without exception. I was National Secretary of the ERC in 1989-90 and my mail from overseas was opened and re-sealed (often in a plastic bag with a label stuck on) – every single item – until Labour was elected in 1999.

    • Yeah take your point Steve – I’ve been a bit clumsy here probably, because I certainly don’t think this is the first example of harassment or criminalisation of protest or dissenting activities in Aotearoa. I guess, for me, the difference is in scale. Being labelled “terrorists” seems like a jump in seriousness, given the western world’s behaviour with “terrorists” post September 11th.
      Ta, LJ

  2. And why are the true terrorists and criminals, the lackeys of the Crooked Crown, not arrested & charged, their property seized and they be held personally & individually accountable?
    Because the so called NATION of NZ is based on lies, on Crown corruption, theft, rape and genocide!
    Proud to be a Kiwi?
    You’d have to be a deluded fool to be sucked in by criminal scum…
    or guilty of aiding & abetting!
    & if you don’t care then you’d have to be just another common domestic animal
    deserving to continue to be fleeced and then led to the slaughter….

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