Police witness refuses to answer in Urewera trial

A police witness in the Urewera trial has refused to answer questions from a defence lawyer because the answers could "compromise operation methods''.

Detective Inspector Geoff Jago was responsible for planting cameras in the Urewera Ranges in 2006 and 2007 as part of a covert police operation.

Defence lawyer Russell Fairbrother today asked Mr Jago from which direction he approached a whare nui and whare kai in the Ruatoki area.

"I believe, to answer that Mr Fairbrother, at this stage could compromise operational methods and numbers involved,'' Mr Jago said.

He also declined to answer how many police were involved in the operation.

Justice Rodney Hansen said he would not allow the witness to refuse to answer questions. The jury has been asked to leave the court room while a legal argument in closed court takes place.

Tame Wairere Iti, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, Emily Felicity Bailey and Urs Signer are on trial in the High Court at Auckland, accused of being involved in military-style training camps.

They have denied charges of belonging to a criminal organisation and possessing guns.

Yesterday, the court heard how police found an oven, which had been used for target practice, and the remains of exploded molotov cocktails.

Mr Jago told the court that he found broken Steinlager bottles at the site which still contained traces of liquid.

He said the liquid smelt of fuel.

"From memory, one of the bottles had a small amount of cloth which could have been a wick.''

The court also heard how participants in the Urewera camps were taught how to use molotov cocktails, kidnap people and guerrilla warfare.

In his opening address, Crown prosecutor Ross Burns showed excerpts from police surveillance videos taken in the Urewera Ranges, near Ruatoki in 2006 and 2007.

"The purpose was to equip them to kidnap people, commit acts of sabotage and combat _ for want of a better word, guerrilla warfare,'' he told the jury.

One of the videos played to the jury shows a group of people getting out of a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

One man can be seen crouching behind the bonnet with a rifle at his shoulder. Several other people rush out of the car and run off screen. "It's really hard to see any lawful purpose for that kind of exercise,'' Mr Burns said.

Other videos show people wearing balaclavas walking through the bush. Some are armed with guns.

"You might wonder why they're hiding [their faces] from each other if they think that what they're doing is lawful,'' Mr Burns said.

He said two police officers pretending to jog through the area after a training session found an old stove that had been used for target practice.

The videos were released to the media after legal arguments in closed court on Monday.

Mr Burns said Iti was the organiser, the "common thread'', and had a Plan A and a Plan B. "Plan A on the face of it seems to be negotiation. If negotiation was not successful, he would resort to Plan B and that is what the revolutionary military wing training was for.''

He said an intercepted conversation from Iti's computer captured Iti talking to another man about a "revolutionary military wing of Aotearoa''.

Another conversation attributed to Iti said: "We're planning to war if we have to.''

Signer's lawyer, Christopher Stevenson, questioned police actions. "What was the motivation in New Zealand at the time? Serious violent offences? You are going to have to decide if that proposition is fact or in the realm of the fantastical and suspicion.''

He said his client lived with Bailey at the Parihaka settlement in Taranaki. The area is known for its passive resistance movement in the 1880s.

Iti's lawyer, Russell Fairbrother, also drew on history and asked the jury to remember Tuhoe's history. He said that in 1866 a large number of Tuhoe people were dispossessed of their lands by the Crown.

He said it was on the confiscation line that armed police held up schoolchildren in the Ruatoki raid in 2007.

Mr Fairbrother said the intercepted computer conversation referred to by the Crown was signed off with a term of endearment usually used by men and women.

"I don't know who was using the computer, but I'll be inviting you to conclude it was not Tame Iti.''

The trial continues.

 

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