Sentencing the ‘Urewera four’ – an affront to our sense of justice? (Part Wha)
Police Commissioner, Peter Marshall appeared on TVNZ’s Q+A on 27 May, to front on the issue of the Urewera raids five years ago. There was a rather remarkable exchange between Mr Marshall and the interview, Shane Taurima,
PETER MARSHALL – Police Commissioner
Well, I think it’s fair to say that there was no particular target or set of targets identified, but it was against a backdrop of a firearm, for instance, being dismantled and being set down to Wellington; against a backdrop of discussions about a sniper rifle and a silencer; discussions about destroying property and explosives; and, of course, there were the threats in relation to people – to actually kill people. It was against that chemistry built up over a number of weeks that there was growing alarm, and in fact the High Court judge who was signing the renewal warrants was making it quite clear that the police should be actually taking action as a result of the submissions – May, June – that process-
So you were confident at the time that they did actually have a target?
Well, we were certainly very alarmed at the increasing number of discussions, the nature of those discussions. As I said, they dismantled a firearm, took it through to Wellington-
Did you know, though, at the time, Commissioner, what their target was?
No, as I’ve said, we didn’t know their particular target. It’s a matter of balance. Do we actually wait until something happens, the unthinkable happens? And then, of course, you can imagine the commentary then. Or do we, at an appropriate time, take action because we need to take action-
So what did you expect them to do?
Well, they were talking about causing damage, by way of explosives, to buildings. They were talking about killing people. They weren’t specific in relation to it. They actually talked about creating a lot of mayhem around the country. They talked about a revolutionary arm, if you like. We don’t know the specifics. But what we were convinced about, it wasn’t just idle talk. There was a lot of commentary that gave us as investigators and indeed, as I mentioned, the High Court judge also expressed alarm. We were, in a very considered way, very worried about what they might as a group or individually- They were getting themselves all psyched up, and we decided to take the action that you are well aware of.
Commissioner, if it was that serious, why, then, did you allow the leader of the opposition at the time, our current Prime Minister John Key, to visit the area two months before the raids took place?
There was no suggestion that he was in any shape or form a target. He wasn’t the prime minister of the day. It was a very considered approach in terms of whether he should go there. He was invited there by senior iwi. We did a risk assessment in relation to that particular location. At that time there was no threat assessment against him-
But we understand that there were reports at the time of him being a target.
Not that I’m specifically aware of. But be assured that we would not have let him as leader of the opposition go into that area if we, at that particular stage, thought he was at risk. So we covered that off.
But you didn’t know the target, though, Commissioner.
No, that’s true, but we were very convinced that the security arrangements around him at that time were sufficient, and in relation to our threat assessment, there was no risk to him.
The other fact, too, that we’re told is that Mr Key had no cops. He had no police escort in the area.
Well, I’m not telling the audience what he did and didn’t have, but suffice to say that there was appropriate security for him backed up by a threat assessment in relation to that one visit on that one day in that very specific area. We wouldn’t have taken any risks in that regard.
We’re also told that one of the targets was the president of the United States at the time, George W Bush, and that they were thinking of ways to assassinate him, if you like, was to catapult a bus on to him.
I’m not aware of that particular approach, but I’m certainly aware that President Bush’s name was mentioned in conversations. I don’t know what context. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that there were a number of remarks made about the use of explosives, about attacking institutions, and indeed killing people.
What the heck?!
So, let me see if I understand Commissioner Marshall;
- It’s fair to say that there was no particular target or set of targets identified.
- They were talking about killing people. They weren’t specific in relation to it.
- But what we were convinced about, it wasn’t just idle talk.
- John Key, visited the area two months before the raids took place.
- Police did a risk assessment in relation to that particular location.
- There were alleged reports at the time of John Key being a target.
- Police were not specifically aware of of Key being a target, “that’s true “, but Police were very convinced that the security arrangements around him at that time were sufficient, and in relation to our threat assessment, there was no risk to him.
So to distill Mr Marshall’s comments down to the very basic essence; Police claim to have overheard talk of killing unspecified, targets, and despite believing it was not just “idle talk” – permitted John Key – the then-Leader of the Opposition – to venture into the area just two months before the raids took place???
And considering that Mr Marshall confirmed that the investigation took 18 months leading up to the raids – that means that the suspects were under surveillance for around 16 months.
In that period of time, they must have collected considerable quantities of information leading up to the raids and arrests on 15 October 2007 – and they still allowed the leader of the National Party – a centre-right political group that would have been an ideal target for so-called violent revolutionaries – to venture into an area of significant police operations?!
Police claim they picked up talk of killings and destruction taking place at “terrorist training grounds” – and they allowed John Key to visit the place?
On top of that is the suggestion that Key was allowed into the area without significant, or any, police protection.
Does this sound remotely sensible or credible to anyone?
Furthermore, when Shane Taurima asked Mr Marshall, ” Do you think that Tame Iti is capable of killing a person? ” – the Police Commissioner replied, ” I have no idea “.
Really? He had “no idea”? So who did all the talking about killing people?
Mr Marshall certainly couldn’t answer whether Tame Iti or Urs Signer, a pacifist, could kill any one – despite Police closely monitoring, listening, surveilling, and watching all the suspects for a solid year and a half.
Mr Marshall’s credibility took a final ‘hit’ when Shane Taurima asked,
” So would you, for example, take the same approach in other areas like Remuera or Parnell? “
Mr Marshall replied,
” Very much so. “
Bollocks. Total bollocks.
Ruatoki was closed down by police, and roads were blocked,
Entire families, including women and children, were forced at gunpoint from their homes and confined in garages for most of the day (over nine hours by many accounts), as the raids were undertaken. The entire village was in lock down.
Whilst properties were raided in Wellington, Auckland, and elsewhere, there was no lock-down of entire suburbs, and nor were entire streets blocked off. Middle Class Pakeha sensibilities were… treated with respect and consideration.
The same could not be said of a small village in the Ureweras, where the full power of the State was being unleashed.
No, Mr Marshall, you did not take the same approach in other areas like Remuera or Parnell.
Having watched the Q+A interview with Police Commissioner Marshall; having listened vary carefully to what he said; noting his tone, facial features, and body language; and trying to make sense out of his contradictory statements, I am left with the following impressions;
- There is more to this issue than Mr Marshal has told us. It makes no sense that John Key was permitted into an area where a 16 month-long (at that point) operation investigating potential “terrorist-activity” was being conducted.
- A full Royal Commission of Inquiry should be undertaken – preferably with Commission members appointed from other Commonwealth nations (UK, Nigeria, Australia, India, Canada, etc).
- The Terrorism Suppression Act must be repealed immediatly. This law is a vile obscenity that has no place in a civilised society.
If history teachers us anything, it is that injustice like this cannot be left to fester.
= fs =
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