Just after 6pm this evening the three men accused of damaging the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim, in a protest against New Zealand’s role in a global spy network were found not guilty by a jury in Wellington District Court.
The men admitted they did it – that fact was never in dispute – making the jury’s not guilty verdicts a remarkable and perhaps unprecedented in such circumstances, declaration of their right to protest in such a fashion.
Campbell Live talks to two of the three men found not guilty – teacher Adrian Leason and Dominican Friar Peter Murnane.
Of his reaction to the verdict Mr Murnane says he is “delighted, not entirely surprised”.
“I had a gut feeling all along that we could get an acquittal, but you can’t be sure of that, so we’re delighted,” he says.
“Our defence was based around a claim of right, which is a legal term that says if we believed that our acts were lawful, we had a defence,” says Mr Leason.
“We might be wrong in law – as the judge actually suggested we were and actually made a ruling, we were in error in law but we were correct in our belief that we were acting lawfully.
“In New Zealand law that’s a good thing to do – to act in an effort to help and save another in danger.”
“We are convinced in our hearts and minds that that spy base, for 20 years, has been contributing to US war machine, war effort – particularly the war in Iraq, we can prove that,” says Murnane.
“It’s illegal in humanitarian law, international law, so we ask what is it doing for us in New Zealand – why a spy base?”
“There is law to protect plastic… and there is a law to protect human beings,” says Mr Leason.
“We broke a law to protect plastic to uphold a law to protect human life. The jury heard that and said yes, protecting life matters more than protecting plastic.”
Watch the full interview with Campbell Live