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Integrity Mixup: Concerned Citizens Reply to Chris Trotter

[Response to Activist's mixup lacks integrity |]

Integrity Mixup: Concerned Citizens Reply to Chris Trotter

Dear Mr Trotter,

I’m writing to you on behalf of the Concerned Citizens, a politically diverse community of more than 60 artists and musicians from around New Zealand. We regularly organise community events to raise funds and awareness for social causes we feel are worthwhile. As you noted in your article last week, we recently hosted an art exhibition to raise funds to support the Urewera 18 arrestees and their families through the drawn-out legal battle they have faced since 2007. The groundswell of public support from the community during and after the exhibition was overwhelmingly positive, and we raised over $6,000 for the defendants.

Thank you for sharing your interesting perspective on our fundraising event. When we began organising the exhibition, we anticipated strong negative reactions from some members of the public. Doubts about our fundraising cause would have been perfectly understandable given the concerning nature of the media coverage of the raids in 2007. Surprisingly, as far as we’re aware, the only negative public reactions to the exhibition (until your article) were two comments posted on the Concerned Citizens social networking website, stating that the arrestees are all definitely terrorists. Sadly, no solid evidence was provided to back up these conclusions.

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Your article expresses a similar certainty that the Urewera 18 are all guilty. I hope it’s not too forward of me to ask, but if you do indeed possess compelling evidence of terrorist activities, as your article suggests you must, we would really appreciate you sharing it with us. As a community-oriented arts organisation that has recently organised benefit concerts for Women’s Refuge, Architecture for Humanity’s earthquake relief efforts in Christchurch and Sendai, and the SPCA Emergency Earthquake Fund, the Concerned Citizens would hate to accidentally support a violent terrorist group. If you can show us your proof that the police were right in thinking that all 18 ‘terror raid’ arrestees were part of a violent organisation that was genuinely plotting to assassinate Helen Clark, John Key, and former US President George W Bush, of course we will immediately stop hosting events to aid in their defence. Until then, we feel obliged to remember the important maxim ‘innocent until proven guilty’ pending the official trial in February 2012.

Sharing your evidence with us might also help resolve the ‘mixup’ you’ve suggested was caused by veteran Springbok protest organiser John Minto fronting our art auction. We asked John to come and speak because we felt that the ‘terror raids’ case constitutes a human rights injustice involving the unfair treatment of a number of people known to be involved in non-violent campaigning for environmental justice, indigenous rights, and, importantly, peace. These people have been punished for more than three and a half years before even standing trial, and are now being denied a trial by jury. Regardless of one’s opinion of guilt or innocence, we feel that the legal process is failing here. We thought that John might see things similarly, since he was quite interested in human rights in 1981 when he put his own safety on the line to help bring about a broad social movement against racism and apartheid. It turns out he is indeed still interested in human rights, and at the auction he gave an inspirational speech about the importance of speaking out against human rights injustices. John also expressed hope at seeing young people, who weren’t around during the ‘81 tour, organising a positive community event as a creative means of non-violent action to speak out against a current human rights injustice.

If you get around to watching the highly acclaimed documentary Operation 8: Deep in the Forest, you’ll see that even former Red Squad 2IC Ross Meurant has grave doubts about the handling of the case (as do politicians across the spectrum, including Keith Locke, Phil Goff and Rodney Hide). In fact, you’re the only person we’re aware of who claims to have spoken out against the injustice of apartheid, but now vocally supports the treatment of the Urewera 18 defendants. Is this because no-one else has seen your evidence yet? Or are they all simply too far to the ‘radical left’?

We’re a bit concerned that you might have overstepped the mark on a few points in your article. You claim that the Urewera 18 defendants were arrested on “terrorism charges”. In fact, no-one in the case was ever charged with terrorism, despite the Police spending several million dollars on more than two years of surveillance. If you’re at all worried that your article might have defamed the defendants and/or placed you in contempt of court, we would encourage you to seek legal advice.

Best wishes,

Ben Knight, on behalf of the Concerned Citizens


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