Saturday, 10 Nov 2007

Top-level leak of arms case evidence

By TRACY WATKINS - The Dominion Post | Saturday, 10 November 2007
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Secret police evidence in the anti-terror case has been leaked in what appears to be a high level security breach, prompting calls for an inquiry.

Crown lawyers last night stopped TV3's Campbell Live from broadcasting evidence in files prepared by police for Solicitor-General David Collins and leaked to TV3. The leak came just 24 hours after Mr Collins refused to allow terrorism charges to be laid against activist Tame Iti and 11 others arrested in raids last month.

Lawyers for the accused discovered after 3 News went to air that the files had been leaked.

They contacted TV3 and threatened to seek an injunction.

Lead lawyer for the accused, Annette Sykes, said the files contained information that even the defendants and their lawyers had not been able to see.

Most of the evidence in the files given to the solicitor-general is now either inadmissible or subject to heavy suppression orders.

"It would have to be a deliberate leak," Ms Sykes said.

"We get out of court and ... suddenly there's a whole file been leaked to a major news outlet. What's that about, when we haven't even got it?"

The leak fuelled fears about the rights of those involved gaining a fair trial.

"I just think it's getting to the point now where it's trial by media."

Maori Party MP Hone Harawira was furious that the file had been leaked, and said it was highly suspicious it had got out the day after the solicitor-general refused to lay charges under the Terrorism Suppression Act. "It can only have been handed in by a member of the police ... I think there needs to be an inquiry about how that information got out, and heads should roll."

There has been heated debate between MPs over the investigation, including over a speech by Mr Harawira accusing "state forces" of terrorism.

NZ First leader Winston Peters reiterated yesterday that the decision not to proceed with terrorism charges was not a vindication.

And he called for those involved to waive their right to have the evidence against them suppressed so the police case could be made public.

"As the solicitor-general made abundantly clear, the police acted on disturbing activities, which justified their actions."

Prime Minister Helen Clark has acknowledged that the terrorism law under which police acted was faulty. It had initially been drafted prior to September 11, 2001, then amended after the United States terrorist attacks.

"I think the law became a bit of a camel as it wended its way through Parliament ... It ended up as a law with its origin in international terrorism conventions, but not particularly appropriate for domestic terrorism," Miss Clark said.

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