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Urewera Four Trial: Day 7 - Civilian Witnesses Appear


Urewera Four Trial: Day 7 – Wednesday 22nd February – Civilian Witnesses Appear

By AnneMarie Thorby

The prosecution introduced their civilian witnesses – two young brothers – at the first sitting day this week of the Urewera Four trial today,

Both brothers gave evidence that in 2007 they were asked by their personal trainer to help him out and as a result they ended up attending one of what the prosecution calls camps in te Urewera.

At the time of the camp, one brother had just turned 14 and was about to begin 4th form at High School. The older brother was then 16 years old.

The first time they were interviewed by the police was in early 2008, some months after police said they had `terminated’ Operation 8.

The younger brother told how he and his brother agreed to help their personal trainer in early 2007.

He said they took the family car and met up with Tame Iti.

They followed Tame Iti's car for a bit 'then we stopped and left our vehicle outside some flats and then got into Iti's car. We then went onto another house. Iti went into the house and then came out with some cloth’.

He said he and his brother were asked to wear a cloth wrapped around the lower halves of their faces. Their Personal Trainer wore a mask and they drove up into the bush.

None of them were blindfolded, he said and they were in the car when suddenly there was 'yelling out to stop the car'.

There was a man standing with a stick and there were 'three shots fired from somewhere around the vehicle', 'people popped up both sides of the vehicle and told us to lie on the ground and gave us a quick frisk. Some of them had guns.'

He said there were about 20 people.

When asked by the Crown Prosecutor, Ross Burns, how he had felt, he replied, 'A bit taken by surprise, not expecting it at all.'

After a quick talk everyone then went to the top of the hill where a 'make-shift camp' had been established.

When asked what happened there, he said there was 'small talk, some in Maori' and that it was 'about eating right.'

He said that one of the people there was a vegetarian so there was a discussion over whether meat was the best source of protein or not.

The only other people that he really remembered being there was someone who said he was 'of Italian descent and he liked fish'.

Also 'another large Maori man who kept taking his balaclava off and at one stage knocked the gun over next to him.'

After the camp, the boys returned to the car with their trainer, and Iti then drove all three back to town.

The prosecutor asked if during that trip Tame Iti had said what the purpose of the camp was. The brother replied, 'No, but he may have said it to (name of the personal trainer) as he was the one asked to come to camp and give a demonstration'.

Under cross-examination by defence, the younger brother reiterated that they had stayed in the camp area for about an hour and talked about eating meat or being a vegetarian.

He said the talk 'went backwards and forwards in discussion where you can and can't get protein from', he said 'some ways it was an argument'.

He also said Iti had also been told to get out of the car and ordered to lie on the ground.

The older brother was the next person to give evidence.

When asked what he thought the purpose of helping the Personal Trainer was, he said it was to 'help train some Maori youths to get a start with life'.

He said that they wore both cloth around the lower half of their faces but unlike his brother said they were blindfolded.

His description of the car being stopped was, 'there was a log across the road and a man standing behind it with a stick and gun. He fired shots into the air'.

He said there were about ten to eleven people and thought he saw four guns.

All the people in the car got out and lay down on the road and were patted down.

After the incident at the car he agreed with one of the defence lawyers that the people were incredibly friendly. He also said that they apologised to everyone in the car, including Iti.

The discussion at the camp he said was friendly apart from the 'vegetarian and meat-eaters getting into an argument'. He was also firmly of the opinion that no one had spoken Maori at the camp.

Under cross-examination by defence, the older brother said that it was the first time that he had met Tame Iti, he knew his personal trainer was friendly with Iti and the pair shared the vision of 'giving some direction for young Maori'.

On the way home from camp, both boys bought and ate meat pies.

The next witnesses were all police and as last week the evidence involved the police describing how they had followed 'vehicles' and 'targets' – watched people stop at petrol stations, buy food at a supermarket, 'items' from McDonalds and saw one group visit an Army Surplus Store – however they were not observed buying anything.

The afternoon ended with nearly an hour and a half of video evidence, and is set to continue tomorrow.

ENDS

Annemarie Thorby is a teacher, activist and freelance writer accredited to cover the Operation 8 trial for Scoop.co.nz

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