October 15th, 2007
Shock as 'pacifists' held in Wellington after raids info
| What began with police smashing through a door in the early hours ended with four "pacifists" accused of firearms charges and a courtroom full of bewildered supporters. |
About 85 police raided 10 places in the lower North and South Islands yesterday morning, looking for people, firearms and ammunition.
Two men and two women appeared in Wellington District Court charged with numerous offences under the Arms Act - many were on joint charges with Tame Iti and other activists.
Seventeen people were arrested in raids across the country.
All four arrested in Wellington lived at different addresses.
Between them they were charged with possession of firearms, large-calibre semi-automatic weapons, Molotov cocktails, shotguns and rifles.
Judge Michael Radford remanded the four in custody till Friday. Their names are suppressed.
Their supporters laughed in disbelief when told of the charges outside the courtroom, saying the four were "pacifists".
About 25 police raided a big house at 128 Abel Smith about 6am, knocking before smashing through the door.
Posters in the window say Save Happy Valley and Free Burma, and residents run a free bicycle repair shop. Above the door of the house, a sign reads: The Mechanical Tempest.
A woman who said she was asleep in the house at the time said she was woken by smashing glass and yelling.
"They burst through shining their flashlights and yelling. It was just really scary."
Police took about six evidence bags containing clothes and documents from the house.
Neighbour Vicki Highgate said she woke to the sound of windows smashing.
She said she did not know anyone who lived there, because there were a lot of people coming and going.
Sam Buchanan, who lives in the house, said he was mystified.
Mr Buchanan said he had not been involved in any training camps but would not say if he was involved with any environmental group.
In Palmerston North, a grey-haired man, 53, appeared in court charged with unlawful possession of a rifle. He was remanded in custody.
Neighbours described him as "very low-key". One, who had lived beside the man for five years, said he was shocked.
"I just can't believe it, he's a really nice guy. We've had a cup of tea and talked, but he never went on about Maori stuff. He's intelligent, respectful and there's never been any problems."