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|Spy base activists walk free||Views: 526|
|Mar 17, 2010 11:23 pm||Spy base activists walk free||#|
John Stephen Veitch
|This verdict is a surprise to me. Usually in cases like this people are convicted, the judge imposes a ridiculously harsh sentence, there is a huge public outcry of disgust, and two years later the prisoners are released for "good behaviour". (This process allows everyone, the protesters and the government, to save face.) |
With this result, the NZ Government and the USA's War in Iraq, were heavily criticised. I'm reminded of the NZ public acting against US Nuclear warships in the Pacific, much to the annoyance of the NZ government and to the anger of both the French and American governments.
(If you don't know the history, the French limped bombed the Rainbow Warrior, an anti-nuclear protest ship in a NZ port, killing one crew member. The USA imposed non-cooperation policies on NZ that lasted about 20 years.)
The Christchurch Press
Spy base activists walk free
By EMILY WATT - The Press Last updated 05:00 18/03/2010
Three activists who admitted breaking into a Government spy base near Blenheim and slashing an inflatable plastic dome covering a satellite dish, have walked free.
Their defence – that they mounted the attack to prevent others suffering – has been successfully used by Iraq-war protesters overseas, but is thought to be a New Zealand first.
Schoolteacher Adrian Leason, 45, Dominican friar Peter Murnane, 69, and farmer Sam Land, 26, were charged with burglary and wilful damage at the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) facility.
The prosecution said the trio cut their way through fences into the base on April 30, 2008, then slashed the plastic cover over a satellite dish with sickles.
The trio readily admitted attacking the base, but said they were driven by a belief that the satellite caused human suffering and their actions to shut it down, if only temporarily, were lawful.
A jury in the Wellington District Court took only two hours to acquit them of all charges yesterday.
A similar defence – known as the greater good defence – has been run by protesters in Britain, Ireland and Germany.
In 2006, a jury acquitted five peace campaigners who used an axe and hammers to cause US$2.5 million (NZ$3.5m) worth of damage to a United States Navy plane which was refuelling in Shannon airport in 2003 on its way to Kuwait, to deliver supplies for use in the impending war.
Auckland lawyer Peter Williams, QC, did not know of the greater good defence being used here previously, but said it had been successful overseas.
"I would have thought it would have been looked at somewhat sceptically by the conservative New Zealand judiciary."
Wellington lawyer John Miller said in acquitting the men, the jury would have to have decided whether the men genuinely believed their actions would save lives, and if so, whether the force they used was reasonable.
"If you believe someone's in grave danger of suffering and you prick a balloon [at the spy base], that seems quite reasonable, given your subjective belief."
Outside court, Murnane, who represented himself throughout the trial, said the action taken by the group had been successful.
"We wanted, in going into Waihopai, to challenge these warfaring behaviours and I think we have done this," he said. "We have shown New Zealanders there is a US spy base in our midst."
The friar had told the court at the beginning of the trial the trio felt strongly about the unspeakable evil caused by activities enabled by spy bases, like torture, war and use of weapons of mass destruction, like depleted uranium.
He said later he was "not entirely surprised" but still relieved by the not-guilty verdict.
"I had a gut feeling all along that we would get an acquittal – but you can't be sure of that."
Asked if he would do it again, he said he did not need to.
"The nation [now] knows much more about the spy base and the harm it does."
Fellow protester Adrian Leason said they "broke a law protecting plastic to uphold a law to protect human life".
A spokesman for Prime Minister John Key, who is also Minister for the SIS and the GCSB, said Key would not be commenting on the decision as it was an intelligence and security matter.
The US Embassy also declined to comment.
Green Party foreign affairs spokesman Keith Locke said evidence presented at the trial showed that the Waihopai spy base was collecting intelligence to help the United States Government. "This included intelligence to help the United States prosecute the Iraq war, even though the New Zealand Government was opposed to that war," he said.
"I hope that the not-guilty verdict will help break down the blanket of secrecy that successive governments have imposed around the operations of the base, and its true purpose."
Video – (Short advisement at the beginning.)
John Stephen Veitch; The Network Ambassador
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Private Reply to John Stephen Veitch
|Mar 19, 2010 1:49 pm||re: Spy base activists walk free||#|
|Seems to me the defense applies to any act motivated by any purpose beyond personal gain. Unfortunately, its validity can only be tested historically, and history is always a matter of whose perspective.|
Private Reply to Ken Hilving