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Bryan Law: Waihopai Ploughshares Trial - Day 7

Waihopai Ploughshares Trial - Day 7


By Bryan Law of www.cairnspeacebypeace.org

It seems an age ago, but the Waihopai defendants finished their personal testimony only last Friday 12 March. The time since has been spent in legal discussion and decision-making by the Judge and legal Counsel.

At 3.23 pm Tuesday the Court re-opened to the public, and around 50 people sat in the public gallery for the resumption.

After the jury filed in Judge Harrop greeted them, and explained the delay. He told the jury (and us) that "I have made some rulings which I'll discuss in my summing up. For now there'll be some further evidence for the defence".

Each of the defendants had one or two personal character referees, mostly priests, who testified either in person or by affidavit as to the good character and spiritual nature of each. The Crown prosecutor, Mr Marshall, never challenged or questioned this evidence. I believe he accepts the defendants are of good character.

More substantive evidence was taken from Katharine Gun, (http://www.accuracy.org/article.php?articleId=1104 ) a whistle-blower from GCHQ - the UK's main intelligence listening station - (http://www.gchq.gov.uk/about_us/index.html ) who revealed in 2003 that the UK/USA group was collecting intelligence on member states of the UN Security Council, in relation to acquiring a UN Resolution authorising the invasion of Iraq.

Gun's evidence was by way of affidavit. It mentioned the "Echelon software", the UK/USA intelligence agreement, and Katharine's principled belief that she was being asked to do something illegal. For her act of conscience Katharine had been charged under the Official Secrets Act. The charges were withdrawn the day before her trial was due to commence - having been held over her head for two years beforehand.

Katharine Gun's testimony goes to the reasonable nature of the Defendants' belief that Waihopai, as an Echelon base, was involved in unlawful spying activity.

The second witness to substantive issues was Ciaron O'Reilly who testified to conversations he'd had with Sam Land in Alice Springs in October 2006, during trial activity around the Christians Against ALL Terrorism incursion into Pine Gap. In August of that year Ciaron and four others had been acquitted by a jury in Dublin of criminal damage of some US$2.5 million done to a US Navy jet with garden implements.

His conversations with Sam revolved around the nexus between ploughshares actions as an act of conscience, and the jury's role as conscience of the community. Ciaron was able to show Sam by example that juries sometimes acquitted persons acting non-violently on matters of conscience. Ciaron said he told Sam that "We went into that trial believing we were not guilty".

In cross examination, Mr Marshall revealed the narrowness of his thinking. Having got Ciaron to talk about a range of ploughshares actions, Mr Marshall labelled them - an acquittal was "successful", and convictions as "unsuccessful". Ciaron put him straight: "All the actions were successful at disarmament. We just got varied outcomes in court".

And so the Defence case has closed, and the scene is set tomorrow for the formal resolution of the trial.

There will be four closing addresses. Three from the defence. Mr Knowles (for Leason), Mr Shaw (for Land), and Fr Peter (representing himself) and one from Mr Marshall (prosecution).

Judge Harrop will then sum up the case and direct the Jury in what they have to do to come to a verdict.

After which the Jury will be sent out to deliberate on their verdict.

The jury may be sent out tomorrow (or Thursday, depending on how extensive the closing presentations are).

How long the jury will take is anyone's guess.

So if you live in Wellington, No 3 District Courtroom will be where its all happening tomorrow from 10,00 am on. The court is open to the public so come along.

I'll finish with a quiz - match each statement below, with the defendant it refers to - Sam Land, Adi Leason or Fr Peter Murnane - each statement comes from one of the personal referees who gave testimony today:

"In my view he is a man of great integrity - honest, truthful, simple in some ways, with a simplicity of faith that's deep and growing deeper".

"A prophetic figure, holding a deep concern with people's welfare and dignity".

"There's no real separation between [his] religious beliefs and his actions".

"His faith has grown deeper and more mature".

"At the heart of his understanding is justice and injustice. He has a heart for justice, and a dislike of injustice".

The first correct answer to reach me wins a free lunch with me at Wellington's Boulevard Cafe.

Email your answers to bryan@cairnspeacebypeace.org

The trial continues.

ENDS

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