Dr. Dawg


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G20 police thuggery.jpg

Consider me terrorized.

Stephen Harper, choosing his time well, says he will reinstate special powers for the police to fight something called “Islamicism”—mere Islamism apparently being no longer scary enough.

One [provision would allow] police to arrest suspects without a warrant and detain them for three days without charges if police believed a terrorist act may have been committed.

The other [would allow] a judge to compel a witness to testify in secret about past associations or perhaps pending acts under penalty of going to jail if the witness didn’t comply.

Think G20, but on a daily basis. We know the penchant of the tomfool Right to identify “the Left” with the seventh-century theocratic values of Muslim fundamentalists: be assured that the police, their natural allies, will grab this one and run with it.

I’d like to acquaint readers with an example of how badly things can go wrong when police are given overly-free rein by the state. This story comes from New Zealand (Aotearoa), not Zimbabwe, and it begins four years ago.*

Here’s the opening paragraph of my first blogpost on that subject, in October, 2007:

Under an anti-terrorism law passed in 2002 (let no one think that New Zealand is behind the times), Māori, environmentalist and peace groups across the country have been raided or “visited” by black-uniformed police. 17 people have been arrested so far, allegedly for taking part in “terrorist training camps.” By no coincidence, the raids took place at the same time as the New Zealand government is actively considering strengthening the Terrorism Suppression Act. The best-known of those rounded up is veteran Māori activist Tame Iti.

Speaking of the G20, does this sort of thing sound familiar?

[The police]detain[ed] people for hours without food or water but without formally arresting them, subject[ed] women to intimate body searches, herd[ed] people into sheds while property searchers were under way and photograph[ed] Ruatoki residents at the roadblock to the valley entrance.

Grossly inflammatory news coverage was the order of the day. Virtually the entire New Zealand left, according to one “source,” was planning an all-out insurrection against the government:

“Each different splinter group was training under the one umbrella and they were going to carry out attacks on targets and infrastructure,” said our source.

“You would have had Tuhoe carrying out attacks on their selected targets, animal rights groups targeting their lot and the so-called ‘peace freaks’ carrying out their acts.

“There were a number of different groups at the table. They were going to wreak havoc according to their own agendas. They were going after a broad spectrum and broad range of targets.

A more level-headed commenter wrote:

Some of the young people I know who were arrested are actually vegans who don’t even believe in killing animals, let alone human beings. When you get the police searching homes of environmental activists trying to save snails on the West Coast, you know that things have got really silly.

Despite all the paranoid nonsense, it looked as though the whole thing would be relatively quickly resolved. New Zealand’s Solicitor General, declaring the anti-terrorism laws “incomprehensible,” made the decision not to proceed on terrorism charges against sixteen alleged ringleaders of the phantasmal plot. Not enough evidence, cough, no criticism of the police intended, cough, cough, very disturbing activities all the same, cough.

But celebrations were premature. Lesser charges were maintained, including alleged firearms and “organized crime” offences, and those arrested were placed under restrictive bail conditions. Their lives were put on hold for years.

Flash forward to December, 2010. The “Urewera 18” are still untried more than three years after being charged. One of them has died awaiting trial. The Appeal Court of NZ rules that they are to be denied a trial by jury.

Under the country’s arcane suppression rules, the reasons for that remain secret. The fact that a ruling had even been issued could not be raised in the media until the suppression order was varied.

This week, another massive chunk of concrete fell from what remains of the Crown’s case. The NZ Supreme Court threw out enough police evidence to force the Crown to drop all the firearms charges.

That ruling, too, has been suppressed, because the Crown, trying to salvage its dignity, will force four of the accused (including Tame Iti) to face trial next year on “organized crime” charges.

Never explain, never apologize.

Lawyer Annette Sykes discusses the case here.

One doesn’t have to read too far between the lines in all this. In a sister Commonwealth country, the US-inspired War on Terror encourages a wild overreaction by police; the Crown is forced to give way almost from the beginning but hangs in there still; individual lives are ruined; four years later, not a single one of the accused has had his or her day in court.

The New Zealand Terrorism Suppression Act was amended shortly after the 2007 legal debacle described above. No doubt it is a much more useful instrument now.

Can’t happen here?

Why not?

* Lots of active links here, but treat the narrative with caution.

[H/t Hinemoana]

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This page contains a single entry by Dr. Dawg published on September 7, 2011 3:52 PM.

NDP leadership: Paul Dewar's chops was the previous entry in this blog.

UPDATE: Baglow v. Roger Smith aka "Peter O'Donnell," Connie Fournier and Mark Fournier is the next entry in this blog.

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