4/29/11

Solicitor-General urged to drop case against Urewera 18



Call of Solicitor-General to Stay Case against Urewera 18

Solicitor-General David Collins has been urged to exercise his discretion to stay the proceedings against the Urewera 18 who are due to face trial in early May, more than three and a half years after their arrest in police raids on 15 October 2007.

The request came in a letter co-sponsored by lawyers Moana Jackson of Ngati Kahungunu and Professor Jane Kelsey from the University of Auckland. It was endorsed by over 150 prominent Maori, academics and social justice campaigners.

“The accused, their whanau and the whole of Tuhoe have had this hanging over them for almost four years, unable to live a normal life. They already carry the label of ‘terrorists’ forever”, Moana Jackson said.

“Now they face the human and financial costs of a twelve week trial in Auckland. To achieve what? To vindicate the police’s anti-terrorism powers and the waste of millions of dollars trying to prove there was some terrorist plot based in Tuhoe?”, Mr Jackson asked.

“The situation is totally out of hand. The Solicitor-General needs to step in and bring the whole wretched episode to a close, as they did with the Bastion Point prosecutions in 1978.”

Professor Kelsey observed that “The efficiency of the court system has already been put ahead of their right to trial by jury. This is not a clinical, technical case; it requires people’s common sense about what was actually going on”.

“The right to a jury trial is fundamental to this case. And if the publicity means there can’t be an untainted jury, as the Solicitor-General himself said in the contempt case against Fairfax and the Dominion Post,[1] then the Crown needs to stay the proceedings.”

“The credibility of the justice system is at stake”, said Professor Kelsey.

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