Ruatoki Arrests � No Mistake This Time

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�The outrage continues in Ruatoki and, second time round, people are not likely to accept that police behaviour was any sort of mistake.� That is the view of Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki, after talking to local community leaders about the arrest of three more people on firearms charges linked to Operation Eight. �The raids last October were a first-off. People believe the police made mistakes, like not consulting their own iwi liaison officers. They heard the Commissioner apologise.
�But doing it again is not a mistake. Once again, the police kept their liaison officers at Ruatoki in the dark. It was elders who asked them to get involved, to avoid another �ninja raid�. And as a result, people voluntarily went to the police to be arrested.

�It seems clear now that the police and their political masters are waging a long-term campaign against them. Ongoing surveillance of their communities, harassment of the people, and continuing arrests are a real prospect.

�The adjournment of cases against the original sixteen people arrested last October, with strictly monitored and enforced bail conditions is, in effect, a punishment without trial. The whole community is under an ominous cloud until these charges are decided.

�The community has their own view of the situation. They know the police lost face big time when terrorism charges were dropped by the Solicitor-General, so the police�s reputation now hangs on getting convictions on arms charges. But they think the police case is flimsy.

�People facing charges of possessing Molotov cocktails have protested their innocence. Others who don�t own guns are facing firearms charges.

�We can only speculate that anyone who visits a bush camp in the Urewera is deemed to be in possession of any guns that might be there. Is it justified to prosecute someone in a hunting area for holding a gun � if they are also associated with Tame Iti? This doesn�t make sense.

�We all know that Tame Iti and others are due to appear in court in a fortnight, and may well be acquitted. We see the arrests at this time as a strategy by the police to stir up public opinion against those facing charges without breaching sub judice rules.

�It is of critical importance that hard evidence is made public so the clouds of suspicion can be cleared away,� said Mr Flavell.

Mr Flavell noted the irony that the arrests coincided with debate in Parliament on a new Policing Bill, which recognises the principle that �effective policing depends on a wide measure of public support and confidence�.

Te Ururoa Flavell, MP for Waiariki 20 February 2008


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