Jailing of Maori separatists stirs colonial-era resentment

Militant Tuhoe tribe members defiant amid claims race relations had been set back 100 years

It began with dawn raids and claims of an IRA-style plot by militant Maori separatists to assassinate politicians and unleash guerrilla warfare. Yesterday, New Zealand's most bizarre – and expensive – criminal case ended with two men jailed, but the public still baffled about events in the remote, mist-shrouded Urewera mountains.

The mountains, home to the fiercely independent Tuhoe tribe, were the site of military-style training camps where recruits learnt to use AK-47s and mount kidnaps and ambushes, according to police. Seventeen people were arrested in the nationwide swoop in 2007, amid plans to invoke tough new anti-terrorist laws. The raids – which saw doors kicked down and people forced out at gunpoint – stunned New Zealanders. Meanwhile, the focus by police on one Urewera hamlet, Ruatoki, revived grievances dating back to British colonisation. Protest marches were staged across the country, and a Maori leader warned that race relations had been set back by 100 years.

From the outset, though, many locals were sceptical about a terror plot, noting that one of the alleged ringleaders, Tame Iti, was better known for colourful stunts such as shooting the New Zealand flag and baring his buttocks at the Queen. Among those detained were a ragtag band of anarchists, environmentalists and peace activists, some of them white. Very quickly the case began to unravel. The Solicitor-General, David Collins, ruled out prosecutions under the anti-terrorism legislation, which he branded "incoherent". Charges against 13 people were dropped after the Supreme Court ruled that video evidence had been unlawfully obtained.

The remaining four defendants – including Mr Iti, who is from Ruatoki and has a moko, or traditional full-face tattoo – were convicted in March of possessing illegal firearms and Molotov cocktails. He and another man, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, were jailed for two-and-a-half years yesterday. Sentencing for two others, Urs Signer and Emily Bailey, was adjourned. However, the jury – which watched surveillance footage of armed men in camouflage gear and balaclavas in the forest and listened to phone-tapped discussions about "smashing the state" – could not reach a verdict on a more serious charge of belonging to an organised criminal group. New Zealanders are thus none the wiser about what went on in this isolated corner of the North Island.

Were those overheard talking about blowing up power stations and assassinating then prime minister Helen Clark really plotting an armed revolution and the establishment of an independent Tuhoe state, as police insist? Or were they, as the defendants claimed, merely teaching hunting and survival skills – or playing out harmless commando fantasies?

In the Ureweras, a deep sense of injustice still burns. The raids rekindled memories of the violence and repression which the Tuhoe – known as the "Children of the Mist" – suffered at the hands of British colonisers. Most of the tribe's land was confiscated in the 1860s after they refused to give it up. The tradition of resistance continues. Mr Iti performed a defiant haka, or war dance, after being sentenced.

Travel
travel
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
musicKate Bush asks fans not to take photos at London gigs
News
i100
Sport
Manchester United are believed to have made a £15m bid for Marcos Rojo
sportWinger Nani returns to Lisbon for a season-long loan as part of deal
News
news
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
O'Toole as Cornelius Gallus in ‘Katherine of Alexandria’
filmSadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Life and Style
fashion
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Quantitative Developer

£700 per day: Harrington Starr: Quantitative Developer C++, Python, STL, R, PD...

Web developer (C#, MVC4, HTML5, CSS3, Javascript, Jquery)

£30000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Senior Automation QA Engineer (Java, Selenium WebDriver, Agile)

£40000 - £65000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Senior A...

Web developer (C#.NET, ASP.NET, MVC3/4, HTML5, CSS3, JAVASCRIPT

£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Web deve...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment