Operation 8 Trial: Day 8 – A Long Day

Article – Annemarie Thorby

More video clips and internet chat room conversations dominated day eight of the Operation Eight trial in Auckland on Thursday.Operation 8 Trial: Day 8 – A Long Day

More video clips and internet chat room conversations dominated day eight of the Operation Eight trial in Auckland on Thursday.

The day began with the continuation of the video footage from the day before.

Crown Prosecutor Ross Burns said there were ‘only a few more minutes left’ and he ‘was delighted when he found out too’.

However, the few minutes was nearly 43 minutes of footage taken during a ‘camp’ on 14th September.

However, there was more commentary today from the police officer presenting the clips.
The screen was often split into two, one screen showed people sitting and standing near a gravel mound watching events happening off to their side, the second screen showed a track in the direction they were looking.

According to the prosecution, what was happening in the second screen was people throwing Molotov cocktails at an old stove (which was not in camera shot).

A lot of people were identified in the clip, some of whom were from the original group of people charged but who subsequently had all the charges against them dropped.

There were also people that the police witness said he could not identify.

At different stages, some of these people stood still facing the camera, wearing neither handkerchiefs nor balaclavas.

At two different stages two different women were identified by the police officer as running towards the stove with a Molotov, they both stopped and watched others before then disappearing out of camera shot – still holding their Molotov cocktails.

All the time the people were allegedly running with Molotovs, the people near the mound are said to have been watching them.

One of the people in this group was identified by the prosecution as Tuhoe Lambert.

Tuhoe Lambert is one of the original group of five charged with ‘Participation in an Organised Criminal Group'; he died in July last year but he has been named by the prosecution as the ‘Training Officer’ for the camps.

There was no cross-examination as the defence said they would delay their cross-examination until the officer had given all his evidence.

(The officer actually returned at the end of the day and showed video clips relating to the ‘camp’ in October 2007.

More Police Witnesses and Chats
After the video clips, the next witness was a ‘Brief of Evidence’ read by the Court Registrar.

It confirmed that an officer had followed someone not charged, and he had observed that person going to a supermarket and buying a soft drink and chocolate bar.

All the next police officers gave evidence in person.

First up was someone who had been ‘tasked’ to observe Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara.

First, however he was questioned about ‘Chat logs’ from an internet chat group.

The prosecutor read out a series of sentences from chats and after each one the officer had to confirm that that was text he could see in the book of evidence

(Each defendant, including the deceased Tuhoe Lambert, have their own book of evidence, some thicker than others. There is also a camp scene book and computer chat book, plus more. These books fill nearly two cartons).

The chats involved a wide group of people, some of the defendants, some of them people who had charges dropped and some people who were never charged as a result of Operation 8.

Among the statements read out were chats to arrange dates for the camps, discussion about getting possible money for the camps, discussions about how to get to the camps, what to wear, – ‘need to be dressed-up tomorrow and what type of footwear’, whether to wear ‘normals’ or to stop of somewhere and ‘get into character’, and what appropriate clothing to bring.

There was also discussion about getting a license. At one stage Tame Iti did tell someone to be ‘clear on matters as we are the Revolutionary Military Wing for Aotearoa’.

After the chat evidence was introduced, the officer then talked about being ‘tasked’ to follow Rangi’s vehicle.

He said Rangi was wearing a tee-shirt with an upside down US flag on it and he was observed putting a chilli-bin in the boot of his car.

He drove off and at three different places in Auckland picked up passengers.

These people were described by the officer as a male wearing a red tee-shirt, a female with a backpack and then another female ‘wearing a red top, red pants, and black fur boots accompanied with a wheely suitcase.’

The officer then followed the vehicle on its way south. The car stopped for petrol, for people to have a rest stop and for people to get changed. At Reed Road, near Taneatua, the officer stopped his observation.

The next morning the vehicle was ‘captured by a camera’ on Whitu Road and the officer later observed the car ‘outbound on Reed Road, Taneatua,’ at 4.40 pm on Friday afternoon.

The officer was then questioned more about chat room conversations and once more the prosecution read out sentences from chats and the officer had to confirm that they were in the evidence booklet.

Some of the sentences read aloud and confirmed by the officer as being in the book, included one of the camp attendants saying ‘it was quite intense and you have to be prepared properly, better equipped for the terrain.’

Another portion of a chat was about a woman wanting a firearm license but she said she knew she had to ‘earn her piece’ as she had jumped back into a truck with a loaded rifle.

The chat then developed into a discussion comparing guns. Out of this section of chat came the comments, ‘I don’t really want to kill if I can help it. Well, if Che baby used it…’ The answer was ‘No-one wants to kill. we are training to kill because we probably will have to… being attacked.’

Cross-examination

The prosecution ended their questioning and the defence began their cross-examination.

Russell Fairbrother, Tame Iti’s lawyer wanted to know how the officer knew that one particular segment of a chat was between Tame Iti and Emily Bailey.

The officer said he ‘took it at face value.’

Mr Fairbrother then quoted from more of that particular chat. He read a short excerpt alleged to be from Tame Iti to Emily where Tame congratulates her on a good TV piece, Mr Fairbrother asked the officer if he had ‘checked out the TV piece to see who was on TV’? He went onto ask if that was ‘a good way of identifying people?.

The officer replied that identification was ‘not his role’ and he had just ‘taken it on face value’.

Mr Fairbrother then asked the officer if he knew much about Mr Iti?

The officer replied that he ‘didn’t know much about Mr Iti to be honest.’

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara’s lawyer, Jeremy Bioletti, was the next to cross-examine the officer and he asked about following Rangi’s vehicle from Auckland.

He asked if the officer had observed during that time any people in disguise. The officer said he hadn’t.

Mr Bioletti then asked him to look at the photo of the woman in red, and he asked if that ‘appeared to be fancy dress costume? A woman dressed as Little Red Riding Hood?’

The officer said no, but he was ‘happy to surveil such a person.’

Christopher Stevenson, Urs Signer’s lawyer, asked about the number of officers seconded to Operation 8, the leadership structure and surveillance undertaken of activists.

Val Nisbet, Emily Bailey’s lawyer had no questions.

More Chats

The next witness was another officer who began by confirming that text read aloud by the prosecution was in the evidence book before him.

The selected chats were mainly about confirming dates of camps, but within that were conversations about how the bush looked and about petrol wastage.

One person said ‘thinking absolutely silly to drive car to Wellie, stupid, waste of petrol’ and a comment about having a hui ‘talking about tino rangitiratanga. It doesn’t happen often for activists.’

There was also a chat in which someone said, ‘got some new TO coming on board for next Rama from Baghdad’ and then went onto say that ‘we may have mahi in Africa’.

Another excerpt included the following comments, ‘the crap our ancestors went through, this is why we are where we are now’. ‘Smash the system.’

Another statement said, ‘not more angry but more determined to stand for our Mana Motuhake’.

Another chat was commenting on a text about Waikaremoana that had been published on Indymedia.

The officer then spoke about his task of observing Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara on 12th October 2007 and following him to Taneatua. He said he had watched Rangi pick up people, drive south and stop at petrol stations.

Under cross-examination, more excerpts were read from the internet chats.

These were continuations of some of the excerpts read aloud by the prosecution. Comments included, ‘I’ve been missing you’, and referring to the bush, ‘bright green leaves, fluttery like the forest of green feathers’, and there were also comments about hunting ducks.

The officer was also asked about whether he knew that when he was giving evidence today, that he would be ‘going through a number of books and reading chats’? And that he didn’t ‘really know the attributions for each chat?’

He conceded that he ‘wasn’t involved in the investigation into these logs’ and that he was ‘going through it with the prosecutor where he led me’ and the first time he had seen these chats was on the stand.

More Surveillance

The next witness on the stand spoke about observing Emily Bailey and how he followed her from Wellington to Taneatua.

He was followed by another officer who was involved in searching one of the camp scenes.

He described finding various used and spent shells in the area – some new and some looking rusty.

There was laughter when he was asked twice by the prosecutor about one particular photo, the officer interrupted and said ‘but item 17 is an apple core.’

A newspaper reporter whispered that it is ‘not good for an environmentalist to leave litter lying around’.

More Video

The last officer to give evidence was the officer with the video clips again showing evidence from the 13th October.

It showed people allegedly practising exiting a vehicle under fire and again the prosecutor and officer named a lot of people present at the scene. There was also hand to hand defence fighting.

These clips were followed by sound clips with the shots isolated out.

The shots were spread out from 7.30 in the morning to 1pm. Some were volleys and some were isolated shots, birds sang in the background of many of the clips.

The afternoon ended with Russell Fairbrother beginning the cross-examination of the officer.

Within a few minutes the court went into Chambers to discuss legal matters.

Once court resumed, Mr Fairbrother began to ask about the evidence given by the officer.

He asked, ‘Has any of your evidence today relied upon the work of other officers?’

‘Yes’, replied the officer and outlined ‘the core investigators for this operation and the officers used for termination’.

He said he ‘had access to the whole file but did not read the whole file’. He said he went to the scene where the videos were shot and ‘in general terms could see’ what the people sitting near the gravel mound could see.

Mr Fairbrother then asked him if he knew why there were different fonts used in labelling the time and dates on the videos.

The officer said he ‘didn’t have the foggiest’ and said the time was ‘set by the people in charge of those devices’.

He said he did not ask ‘who set the times’ and did not ‘see if they were coordinated properly’.

Mr Fairbrother also asked about the vehicles seen in the video clips and vehicles present at the camps.

He said ‘In the camps here we see vehicles, we can see registration numbers and there’s nothing being done to hide them’. The officer agreed.

Mr Fairbrother then said ‘in the video clips we’ve seen some individuals wearing balaclavas, some not. Some some time, some not’ and asked the officer if he knew why.

The officer said he ‘puts it down to weather’.

The Court ended for the day and was adjourned until Friday 24th February at 10am.

Annemarie Thorby is a teacher, activist and freelance writer accredited to cover the Operation 8 trial for Scoop.co.nz
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