Maori activists caught in anti-terror raids
By MELANIE JONES - Sunday Star Times | Monday, 15 October 2007
A major anti-terrorism operation is underway in New Zealand after police found what they said was a guerrilla style group operating in the eastern Bay of Plenty.
Prominent Maori activist Tame Iti is among those taken in by police, his lawyer Louis Tekani told Fairfax Media.
He is facing arms charges this afternoon in the Rotorua District Court and Mr Tekani denied any terrorism connection.
Mr Iti was woken at 4am today.
"From what he's told me, he heard some one rustling outside and from there the police issued instructions for him to come out," Mr Tekani said.
"He's cooperated with the police and nothing untoward has happened."
Although he was in the Rotorua police cells no charges had been laid and Mr Tekani had seen no summary of facts. He said there was no suggestion of terrorism.
"If it wasn't so serious it would be laughable," he said.
"To charge someone for terrorism type offences is a serious matter. It will be interesting to see what the summary of facts says."
Mr Tekani said locals figured something was happening as early as Saturday because of unusual police traffic in the area.
Police have been executing warrants under the Suppression of Terrorism Act and the Firearms Act in a series of co-ordinated raids and the office of Prime Minister Helen Clark is being kept informed over what is going on.
Fairfax Media understand a top secret "O Desk" group met at the Beehive earlier this month to hear what was planned for today.
Police are being tight lipped at the moment saying only that as a part of a national police operation targeting firearms officers executed numerous warrants early this morning across the country in Auckland, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Palmerston North and Hamilton.
Fairfax Media can report that this morning's arrests are the culmination of months of work by a specialist police anti-terror unit which has hundreds of hours of recordings from bugged conversations, video surveillance, and tapped cellphone calls and texts.
Fairfax Media understands police have video of military-style training with live ammunition in camps deep in the Urewera mountain ranges and expected to find machine guns and grenades during their raids
Campaigners from various Maori sovereignty, environmental and "peace" groups are implicated.
"These guys are serious. They are talking of killing people," a source said.
It is understood police plan to charge up to 14 people with participating in a terrorist group under the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002.
The Act requires the police to seek the approval of the Attorney General before court proceedings are initiated.
More than 60 other people from around the country who have been recorded talking to, and in some cases training with, the arrested group will also be brought in for questioning.
Some of them are known to have pulled out once they realised the level of violence planned.
Police units infiltrated the training camps during months of investigation - sometimes being within metres of those firing live rounds.
Investigators believe although the groups were training together, they were each planning to hit targets related to their own interests although all the hits would be co-ordinated to cause maximum chaos and stretching police resources across the country.
Training camps in the Uraweras makes them sound like the mujahideen... somehow I doubt it...