May 24: Taame Iti and Rangi Kemara were sentenced to two and a half years in prison. Urs Signer and Emily Bailey had their sentences adjourned but will be sentenced to nine months home detention.
The four were found guilty in May on a number of firearms charges but the jury was hung on the more serious charge of ‘participation in an organised criminal group’. They were the only people brought to trial after 20 were arrested in 2007, when over 300 police carried out dawn raids on dozens of houses across the country.
The sentencing judge said one of those involved held extreme anarchist views and there was talk among the participants of killing, using explosives to kill, and attempts to “smash the state”.
Around 100 people gathered outside Mt Eden Prison in Auckland the evening after sentences were handed down. A demonstration is planned outside of Wellington High Court this Friday (25 May) at noon. Another protest will take place at Mt Eden Prison on Saturday 26th May at 2pm, and in front of the Christchurch Central Police station this Saturday (26th May) at 4pm.
“The sentences of 2.5 years for Taame Iti and Rangi Kemara are manifestly unjust. This is an outrage. The sentences of Urs Signer and Emily Bailey are equally absurd. The judge sought to retry the entire case at sentencing today and himself decided their fate. It is an outrage.”
“Our four friends may have been sentenced today but it is far from over,” said Valerie Morse from the October 15th Solidarity Group. “We will continue to fight for and support these people until justice is done and all the charges are dropped.”
It has been nearly five years since Operation 8 came to light and the process and punishment continues and is not forgotten.
“These people have been sentenced on charges that were dropped against 13 other people last year. The Supreme Court ruled that the only serious offending was that committed by the police and the Arms Act offences should not have even been pursued.”
The trial of Emily, Urs, Taame and Rangi is the result of a racist state intent on quashing any hints of aspirations for Maori sovereignty. But no one must forget the others. The others arrested, the people and communities harassed and intimidated by the police on October 15th 2007, and there are the people of Tuhoe who were subjected to at least a year and a half of spying and trespass on their lands and their Marae by the state forces. This was done at the same time as the same state was negotiating with Tuhoe over Te Urewera settlement.
The whole saga may be written off over time in the main stream media as a travesty of justice and police paranoia, but we know that it was a deliberate action. We know that it is an action that will continue again and again in this land. Operation 8 was only a repeat of history; the fight for freedom and tino rangatiratanga will continue.
“The judge is just another part of a racist justice system where Maori do not enjoy the same rights as pakeha. There continue to be two worlds in this land. This case forms part of the on going colonisation of Aotearoa and its indigenous people.”