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Waihpai Ploughshares' Court of Appeal hearing


Waihopai Ploughshares: 1.30pm today at parliament

Peace Movement Aotearoa

8 May 2013

On the first day of the Waihopai Ploughshares' Court of Appeal hearing in Wellington, Waihopai Ploughshares' supporters will give their clothes to the Prime Minister John Key, at 1.30pm at parliament. This action, to highlight the human rights and justice issues around the hearing, is in keeping with the teachings of Jesus, "if any man will sue you at the law, and take away your coat, let him have your shirt as well" (Matthew 5:40).

In March 2010, after an eight day trial, the Waihopai Ploughshares were acquitted by the jury. In response, in October 2010, the government lodged a civil claim for $1.2 million, on behalf of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB). In August 2011, at the High Court in Wellington, Associate Judge David Gendall declined an application for a full hearing and issued a summary judgement awarding $1.2 million damages in the government's favour, as well as court costs. Last year, the Waihopai Ploughshares lodged an appeal against the High Court decision, and the appeal is being heard by the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Wednesday, 8 and Thursday, 9 May 2013.

* Background information

On 30 April 2008, a Christian Ploughshares team - Adrian Leason, Father Peter Murnane and Sam Land - entered the grounds of the GCSB / US National Security Agency spy base at Waihopai and punctured the dome covering one of the two antenna to disable and draw attention to the role of the base - part of the US governments global spy network - in the 'war on terrorism'. They then built a shrine and prayed for the victims of the war with no end while waiting to be arrested. This citizen's disarmament initiative is known as Waihopai Ploughshares.

In March 2010, after an eight day trial, the Waihopai Ploughshares were acquitted by the jury. In response, in October 2010, the government lodged a civil claim for $1.2 million, on behalf of the GCSB. In August 2011, at the High Court in Wellington, Associate Judge David Gendall declined an application for a full hearing and issued a summary judgement awarding $1.2 million damages in the government's favour, as well as court costs. Last year, the Waihopai Ploughshares lodged an appeal against the High Court decision, and the appeal is being heard by the Court of Appeal in Wellington on Wednesday, 8 and Thursday, 9 May 2013. A more detailed chronology of these events is included below.

The outcome of the appeal has wide implications for human rights and justice: if the High Court decision stands, it makes it more likely that a vindictive government will initiate costly civil proceedings against defendants who have been found not guilty if it is dissatisfied with the outcome of a trial - this would have particularly negative implications for anyone acting on their conscience who engages in a citizen's disarmament action.

* Waihopai Ploughshares: chronology of events

On 30 April 2008, the Waihopai Ploughshares - Adrian Leason, Fr Peter Murnane and Sam Land - entered the grounds of the NZ Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) / US National Security Agency spy base at Waihopai and punctured the dome covering one of the two antenna to disable and draw attention to the role of the base - part of the US governments global spy network - in the 'war on terrorism'. They then built a shrine and prayed for the victims of the war with no end while waiting to be arrested. Their statement is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/plshares.htm

The Waihopai Ploughshares trial started on 8 March 2010. Their defence was based on 'claim of right' (widely misreported by the media as a necessity defence) and on 17 March 2010, the trial jury acquitted the three defendants. An overview of the trial with links to more information is available at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/plupdate.htm

On 7 April 2010, the Attorney-General announced that the government would not appeal the verdict, but was considering suing Waihopai Ploughshares for (at that time) $1.1 million.

In October 2010, the Attorney-General lodged a civil claim for $1.2 million, on behalf of the GSCB - see for example, '$1.2m Crown seeking includes beer, pies' at http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10679078

On 3 November 2010, the government announced that it would be limiting the 'claim of right' defence so that it could not be used in similar circumstances in future.

On 8 August 2011, there was an all-day hearing in the High Court as to whether the government would be awarded summary judgement of $1.2 million damages for the costs of repair of the spy base dome (and food and drink for the workers who repaired it) or whether the matter would proceed to trial - the decision hinged around whether or not the judge considered the three defendants had a chance of successfully arguing a case against the awarding of damages to the government. A brief overview of the defence case, which was based in part on the defences of necessity and self-defence / defence of another and in part on ex turpi causa, is available at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=217666044947439

Associate Judge David Gendall's decision was released on 31 August 2011. His judgement was that the defence did not have a case, and that summary judgement of $1.2 million damages was therefore awarded in the government's favour, as well as court costs. The media release from Adrian Leason in response is available at http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=228892570491453 and at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/plshares.htm

In 2012, Waihopai Ploughshares appealed the High Court decision, and the Court of Appeal hearing is being held in Wellington on 8 and 9 May 2013 - information on the Court of Appeal hearing, updates, and photos are available on the Waihopai Ploughshares page at http://www.converge.org.nz/pma/plshares.htm and at http://www.facebook.com/PeaceMovementAotearoa

ends

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