Accused remain confident that Crown won't prove arms charges
Fri, 17 Oct 2008 12:00a.m.
The only person to have charges against him dropped after police raids in the Ureweras last year says he was the victim of an overactive police imagination.
Rongomai Bailey, 28, was the only one of 18 people arrested in the raids in October last year to have all of their charges dismissed today.
Seventeen people, including veteran activist Tame Iti, were committed to trial after a ruling by Judge Mark Perkins in Auckland District Court today.
Iti spoke to media after leaving court, but would only answer questions in Maori.
It was a bitter-sweet moment for Mr Bailey, whose brother and sister were among those committed to trial today.
As Judge Perkins announced all charges against Mr Bailey were to be discharged because of insufficient evidence, many in the crowded public gallery broke into applause.
The ruling came after a preliminary hearing at the court, lasting over 19 sitting days, hearing evidence which was suppressed, about the possession of illegal weapons, including rifles, pistols and Molotov cocktails.
Judge Perkins made the point in his ruling that because many of the 18 had requested their charges be read in English and Maori, just reading the charges alone had taken three days.
Of the 343 charges laid, Judge Perkins dropped 39 of them today, citing insufficient evidence.
None of those committed to trial entered guilty pleas and were remanded on bail until February for a callover in court, which they do not have to attend.
Outside the court Mr Bailey told media the charges had been a huge waste of his time.
"It's very depressing for me to know my friends and family are still in there on these trumped up charges."
The media had portrayed those charged as an "evil terrorist group", he said.
Mr Bailey described himself and the others charged as "victims of the police who have an overactive imagination".
Even though the charges against him had been thrown out, Mr Bailey said a stigma was still attached to him.
"It will always be there with the internet...I will be limited with my opportunities because they will always see me in the light or shadow of this case."
Tame Iti's lawyer, Annette Sykes, told media she was not disappointed all of the charges had not been dropped.
"There's a long walk to freedom and this is one step along that walk and, as Nelson Mandela reminded all freedom fighters throughout the world, the quest for justice is something that is insatiable."
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