13 Mar 2012

Lawyer likens Tame Iti to Nelson Mandela

4:55 pm on 13 March 2012

A defence lawyer for activist Tame Iti has compared him to Nelson Mandela, at a trial in Auckland.

Russell Fairbrother was making his closing address in the trial of Mr Iti, who along with Emily Bailey, Urs Signer and Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara, faces charges of participation in a criminal group and unlawful possession of firearms.

Mr Fairbrother told the jury in the High Court in Auckland this case was an important one in New Zealand's history.

The Crown alleges the four accused took part in what it describes as military-style camps in Te Urewera National Park in Bay of Plenty, training people to partake in urban warfare in 2007.

But Mr Fairbrother, summarising his client's defence, said the case painted only part of a picture.

He said Tame Iti was an agent for peaceful constitutional change, and had made a significant contribution to this country.

Mr Fairbrother asked the jury to think back to other figures in history, such as Nelson Mandela, who had been misunderstood and jailed for their beliefs. He implored the jury not to come to the same conclusion.

The Crown earlier compared the alleged illegal activity to the violence surrounding the 1981 Springbok rugby tour.

In his closing address, Crown lawyer Ross Burns told the jury that like the Springbok tour, it is difficult to believe this type of extreme activity can take place in New Zealand.

"But the reality is for some of us this may be the same sort of turning point as 1981 was for others. Realisation that not withstanding how much we would wish it didn't happen, it has, and you have the evidence in front of your own eyes."

He says the accused were preparing for urban warfare, training people up so they could commit violent offences.