Archive for March, 2010

Media Stories Waihopai Verdict

March 26th, 2010

Here’s an annotated list

of Media Reports of the Waihopi Ploughshares trial and verdict

they’re chronological, from Press, TV, Radio and social media.

I reckon they tell a story about the kind of media coverage and public discourse brought about by creative and committed direct action – like the Waihopai Ploughshares. 

For a perspective on where media coverage fits in the spectrum of NVDA outcomes, read this piece from a nonviolence discussion list which discusses media strategy.

17 March 4.15 pm. In the foyer of Court 3. The Jury's Out. What will they say?

There are 43 stories, several with substantial links and/or discussion threads. 

The list is more representative than exhaustive (for example there are several blogs, and the bigger ones carried one or two stories most days).  There are more daily papers than surveyed here.  In some fields my selection is arbitrary, based on what was easiest to do. 

Towards the bottom you’ll find my final Report for Scoop, through which you can find links to all my Court reports.  Sarah, a documentary film-maker, plus me were the only recorders who stayed to cover the whole public part of the trial.

Please notice the extensive public discussion, in several movements, started by the trial and the verdict.

» Read more: Media Stories Waihopai Verdict

Waihopai Ploughshares Acquitted

March 18th, 2010

Eye-witness account

The Jury went out to consider its verdict at 3.45 pm Wellington time on Wed 17 march 2010.  The returned to deliver their verdict just two hours later.

Not Guilty for all defendents on all charges.

The judge thanked the jury for doing their duty and discharged them.  The court was packed, and when the defendents were allowed to leave the dock, the public gallery erupted into vigorous applause.  The same applause was given the jury after they were discharged and leaving the court.

It would be fair to say that everyone in the Court, from the Judge on down, felt this verdict was a worthy example of the Jury’s power to decide on the facts.

I published this report with scoop just before the verdict was reached.  It tells about the prosecution’s closing address, which we no see failed in its objective.

After the verdict  I went to the celebration Party at the Leason farm outside Otaki.

The following day I filed this report on the closings, and Judge’s directions

My full complement of Court reports can be found through that link, or on the trial pages of this Blog, in the “Waihopi” nest.

Day 7 about to start (public)

March 16th, 2010

Hey groovers,

District Court no 3 in Wellington’s Ballance St has been closed to the public for one day and a half.  Judge Harrop has been hearing argument from Counsel, and has made his decisions aboutthe shape and scope of the trial.  In just over half an hour he will tell the jury and the public what those decisions are, and any remaining evidence will resume.

After all the evidence is given, the Prosecution and defence Counsel will give their closing address.

Then the judge “sums up” the case (by going through all the evidence in summary form, being careful to include all key elements), and then gives his directions (instructs the jury on what things the law requires them to consider and decide upon in coming to their verdict).

Finally the jury is sent out to deliberate, and if all goes well return a verdict.

If the jury convicts, there is a sentencing process to follow.

The trial will most likely take up the rest of this week, and may spill into next.

I’ll report on the Judge’s decisions this evening, and my feeling is they will be significant – both for the defendents, and for the processes of law in this country.

For gamblers, I’m still prepared to bet against a conviction.  Any takers?

Day 5, Waihopai trial

March 13th, 2010

Adi Leason and Sam land pray as the dome comes down

From your correspondent in Christchurch.

My first report for scoop can be found here.

Back on Track

March 12th, 2010

Kia Ora

There’s a web-based news service in Aotearoa called Scoop www.scoop.co.nz

Alastair Thompson asked me if I’d assist them to report the trial, and he wrote a measured letter to Judge Harrop asking for me to be allowed to do so, subject to editorial surety that I would be informed about, and abide by NZ court reporting rules.

Judge Harrop agreed to this, and I am now an accredited scoop reporter for the trial.  I’m allowed to sit at the media table and take notes.  Who’da thunkit?  A new career at my time of life.

I’ll file from now on with scoop, and after they’ve published I’ll update this blog.

The defendents have all finished giving evidence and being cross-examined.  I’m exhausted and going off for a big sleep, so start looking for my coverage of today’s proceedings in about 24 hours.  Meanwhile the scoop reporter from Wednesday wrote a pretty cool and sympathetic background piece here.

Waihopai Ploughshares trial

March 11th, 2010

Day 4

I’m ordered by the Court to cease reporting on this trial.

This morning I was called into the closed Court by Judge Harrop and shown an extract of my blog from Day 2.  The extract contained a photo of Adi Leason that I captured from a TV3 broadcast, and a paragraph that I wrote saying that legal argument had taken place.

Judge Harrop never mentioned the photo, but he said that the mention of things which happened in the absence of the jury was against the court reporting rules in New Zealand.

He ordered me “to desist from any further reporting of this trial until after it is finished” and he reminded me of his powers to find me in contempt and imprison me for the duration if I disobeyed his order.

Upon my request he allowed me to publish his order, and explain the sudden absence of reports on this site about the trial.

I WILL OBEY the Judge’s orders, because I agree with him that no-one wants to see this trial aborted.  Indeed, I have gone further and removed the offending paragraph.

 The freedom of speech around court hearings is an important part of democracy, and one I will take up after this trial is over – but it is not the central issue just now.  The central issue is the conscience, action and trial of Adi, Peter and Sam.

You can read a report about Day 4 of the trial (which is NOT written by me) here:

http://www.indymedia.ie/article/95966?author_name=Letitia&comment_limit=0&condense_comments=false#comment265974

Trial Day 3

March 11th, 2010

Adi’s testimony continues

Yesterday was a short day in Court, and concluded with a very successful public meeting at St John’s Presbyterian Church that evening.

Faith

In Court, Adi Leason re-commenced his testimony where it’d been interrupted by the power failure on Tuesday. His Counsel Mike Knowles by asking him “When and how you decided the work of Waihopai base was so important to you that you had to address it?”

Adi re-stated the importance in his life of a deep and strong Christian faith.  “Everything I know, and everything I’ve read in the Bible can be boiled down into two things” he said.

“Loving the Lord God with all your heart, soul, conscious and spirit”

and following Jesus’ commandment to “Love your neighbour as yourself”

And these two principles lead to a way of life:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.

“War is the opposite of that!”

Hope and Despair

He then went on to tell the story of that period after he’d returned from Thailand and moved to the farm at Otaki.  His mother became terminall ill, so she moved into Adi’s house where he (with community nursing assistance) cared for her through the process of dying.  His mother died at home surrounded by family.  Weeks later a child was born in the same bed.  As he tended his garden and watched the seasons roll on in the established pattern he reflected on how important family was to human life.

Around this time he saw a TV interview with an Iraqi grandfather who was holding the body of a dead grand-child, and who, according to this BBC report, had just lost every living member of his family in a US bomb attack.  “That man just looked so desolate” Adi said.  “The bomb that killed his family would have been sent there by ELINT collected at bases like Waihopai that were part of the Echelon network”.

“At that time I started to feel a knot in my stomach, and I knew I couldn’t carry on JUST praying.  I mean prayer is great, and our family begins every day with it, but it was becoming clear to me that more was needed”.

Then came the images of Abu Graihb prison and the torture that was going on there.  Adi was struck by “the wrongness of that:  the immorality of that.”

A possible way forward

“I couldn’t avoid reflecting on various ploughshares actions around the world”.  He cited the ANZAC Ploughshares at Griffis Airforce Base conducted by Ciaron O’Reilly and Moana Cole (friends of his).  The Liverpool based Seeds of Peace Ploughshares.  The Pitstop Ploughshares at Shannon Airforce Base,  The Christians Against ALL Terrorism at Pine Gap in Australia.

He described “a growing sense that this was a possible opportunity for me to act on my belief”!

Then he described some of the history of legitimate protest against waihopai over 20 years, all of which failed to achieve anything more than “a total stonewall non-response”.  “In January 2008 Sam (Land), Peter (Murnane) and I started seriously discussing an action to disable Waihopai Base”.

Moments of magic

Mr Knowles then took Adi through the action itself.

Adi has a laconic wit, and a terriffic sense of humour, so his testimony about the disarmament action was loaded with phrases like:

“40,000 Volts (the electrified security fence) is a significant deterrant”.

“There are certain laws of physics that meant the truck wasn’t getting out of the ditch”

“After we exposed the electric wires Sam and I gave the bolt-cutters to Peter (older, without a family)”

Despite the humour Adi showed himself to be dead serious about his act of disarmament.  At several points the crew had to overcome fear (of discovery, of injury and death) in order to proceed with their plan.

In a compelling moment explained that the thought he kept in his head during the danger and hardship was of his 3yo daughter.  He imagined another 3yo in iraq under threat, and asked himself “would I do this to save my daughter?  Yes I would”.  And so he acted to save the imaginary child across the seas.

So they got into the base undetected.  They cut through and deflated the dome undetected.  They built a shrine, hung banners, and began prayer – all undetected. Just before they sliced through the dome they prayed together “We disarm you in the name of Jesus Christ”.

Eventually security came.  The crew made sure that security personnel felt safe and, after inviting them to join in prayer, they surrendered all the sharp tools, along with the key to the now padlocked and chained front gate.  They waited calmly for Police and for the trial they are now undergoing.

I watched the jury members a fair bit during Adi’s testimony, and there’s no doubt he has their full attention.  I can’t tell what’s going on in the mind of a jury member, but I found it difficult at times not to cry during Adi’s testimony.  He is such a loving and thoughtful man, acting at great personal risk, but without rancour or self-righteousness.  Fortunately I get a chance to hug him each day while he’s still free, and I feel refreshed and inspired by his shining example.

The Emporer has new clothes!

Which is more than I can say for Mr Murray, the prosecutor, who I feel alternately sorry for, and a bit pissed off with.

The Prosecutor’s job is to tear down Adi’s tender concerns.  To ridicule and undermine him.  He started that at about mid- day yesterday and carried on for 45 minutes.

“Isn’t it true that you don’t know specifically what goes on at Waihopai?”  (It’s a secret base about which the government lies)

“So you get all your information from a book published in 1996?” (No, but the book remains accurate in any event)

“You didn’t spend much time taking inoffensive protest action about the base did you?” (others did for 20 years, none of which worked).

And the classic series of “Do you agree we live in a democracy, and the government acts correctly all the time, and you are free to waste as much time as you like collecting petitions that don’t work?” ( While the murder goes on.)

Sometimes i think Mr Murray is an agent paid by the Emporer to pretend the new clothes are both warm and beautiful.  I ask myself how he can stand the falsity and emptiness of performing his task.  Then I remember that the evil roots of the war system keep otherwise good folk away from truth.  away from a personal experience of power and goodness.  trapped in a shallow mire of consumerism.  I try then to forgive and love Mr Murray.

During the lunch adjournment a juror became ill, and Court was adjourned for the day.  Adi’s cross examination will continue today, and then we’ll hear testimony from Father Peter Murnane. I apologise for the absence of photos today, but yesterday was very full, and I have a little physical tiredness now.

The Public Meeting

Last night was a great public meeting where two traditional political activists (Murray Horton from the Anti-Bases Campaign, and Greens MP Keith Locke) spelled out clearly what the base is, and how limited is the process of Parliamentary accountability.

Then Moana Cole spoke powerfully and eloquently of the Ploughshares prophecy, philosophy, movement and hope.  I made a little slide presentation about Pine Gap, nonviolence, and the joy of powerful NVDA.  There were 120 or so at the meeting with a great feeling, and a spirit of determination.

That’s it for now.  I’m off to court again soon, and I’ll report back on this blog.

Your support and interest means a lot to the defendents.  keep the messages of support flowing.

Cheers
Bryan

Day 2 Goes On

March 10th, 2010

Defence Counsel Mike Knowles

The defence table and dock
Adi Leason in the dock

Adi Leason’s testimony.Shortly after the lunch adjournment Adi Leason took the stand and commenced giving his testimony.  His Counsel, Michael

Knowles, led Adi through a description of his life as a Christian, and his story as a teacher, community worker and political activist.

Adrian James Leason is 44 years old, married with 7 children, presently living in Otaki.  He made three of the banners used in the Waihopai ploughshares action.

“USA War on Terror: a Global Disaster”

“400,000 Iraqi Dead Cry NO! to US War on Terror”

“Christians Against ALL Terrorism”

Mr Knowles then took him through those parts of his character and background which led him to making those signs and using them as part of an action to deflate the Waihopai dome.

Adi has been a Christian for 37 years (with a clear recollection of inviting Jesus into his heart aged 7 while attending Sunday school).  He says though that he never really deepened his faith until aged 16 or 17, when he was involved with a local youth house – where he got a clear appreciation of the difficulties facing some young people.  As a result of his experiences he gained a primary teaching qualification while active with Wellington “Youth for Christ”

 He began teaching in 1987.

After a time he joined a group called “Youth with a Mission” and travelled through asia.  After recovering from a serious bout of Malaria Adi began work in a refugee camp where he was exposed to a lot of “economic refugees” from Vietnam who’d been battered and scarred by the long war in that country.

He returned to teaching in Wellington and got re-connected with Youth for Christ.  He married Shelley, and they became active in a community centre.  Out of this they moved into a Council High-rise among a community of need, and began working directly with the urban poor.  He worked with the Wellington Association of Tenants, and succesfully took up capaigns against the sale of public housing, and against an increase in rents.

By this point in his testimony Adi is referring to “our family” as an organic unit, and he and Shelley have three children.

After seven years in the high-rise Adi’s family travels to Thailand to live and work in a slum community in Bangkok.  He is there for 9/11, and for the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq.  In possibly his most compelling testimony he spoke of seeing the preparation for war: the spending of Billions upon Billions of dollars on the machinery of war and the preparation for killing while the community he lived in was suffering the blight of poverty that money could have assisted.

He spoke directly to the jury at this point about preparation for war being like a train coming inexorably down the tracks, towards a school bus which had broken down on the crossing “and even though the citizens of world in their millions, and the media, and the agencies, were yelling out to the train, warning it about the school bus ahead, and asking it to stop…the train sped up and rolled straight over that school bus.

In 2004 Adi’s family, broke, returns to Aotearoa, and Adi works at conventional teaching jobs again, now with four children and another on the way.  They work to buy a farm at Otaki, and see and see and hear about the unfolding wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the internet and media.  He feels proud that the New Zealand government refuses to commit combat troops to Iraq, but is painfully aware from the work of Nicky Hager about the spy base at Waihopai, and the vital role it plays in war-making. Baghdad is bombed into rubble.

Through this period he is continuing in his life of faith, and getting to know the Catholic Worker community in Aotearoa.  He meets Peter Murnane and Sam Land.

Adi has become deeply concerned by the failure of legitimate protest, and he believes that secrecy and unaccountability by security agencies and military machines is one reason for this failure in democracy.

Mike Knowles then starts taking Adi through his understanding of the function and impact of Waihopai spy base.  Adi says a lot of his knowledge is based on Nicky Hager’s book “Secret Powers”.  He spells out the global nature of the Echelon network, and begins to detail incidents of commercial and political espionage that Echelon is responsible for, and that Waihopai was probably involved in.

It is when Adi begins to discuss spying on UN Security Council members in 2002 that the prosecution Counsel raises his first objection – which is resolved in the defence’s favour – just minutes before the power in central Wellington goes out and Court is finished for the day.

I felt privileged to be in Wellington District Court to hear the testimony in this case.  The jury was rivetted by the testimony they heard, and the love, compassion and integrity of Adi Leason shone through.  It’s Wednesday morning now, and I’m getting ready to go back and hear the rest of Adi’s story, and the beginning of Peter Murnanes.

May God bless us all.

Cheers
Bryan

Day One Goes Off!

March 8th, 2010

End the UK/USA Spy Ring

Supporters gather, Beehive in background

A fabulous beginning.

Around 100 people from Wellington gathered at the Cenotaph next to Parliament house, with banners and signs and an abundance of goodwill.  At 9 am we all processed to the District Court building and sang in support of the 3 defendants.  Adi called on the children and mothers – our future – to come forward for a particular blessing.

Some stayed outside all day maintaining a vigil and public witness, others filled the public gallery to overflowing.

The morning was spent empanelling the jury, instructing the media (one pool television camera has been allowed inside the Court) and there were around 8 media workers witnessing all morning and some of the afternoon.  Judge Harrup instructed the jury on how the trial process would run, and what their duties were.  My first highlight was hearing a judge talk with a Kiwi accent.  My second thrill was hearing the Judge refer to Peter Murnane as “Father”.

Then we had the opening addresses, with Mr Boyd-Wilson opening for the prosecution. He was young, and his presentation of the facts was dry and basic.  He did a good job for what seems in some ways to be an open and shut case.  At the beginning it was “Peter Murnane, the accused”, but Mr Boyd-Wilson couldn’t help himself, and the “Father Murnane”s emerged from his mouth and continued throughout the day.  I think it’s hard to seriously condemn someone you’re calling “Father”.

Because the facts are not being disputed, the real work of the prosecution will lie in knocking down the defences that the Waihopai 3 plan to raise – “necessity”, “self defence” and “claim of right”.

Mr Knowles, representing Adi Leason, opened for the defence in an elegant and eloquent manner.  He told the jury that the defendents would be admitting all the facts, and they (the jury) might wonder why the trial was necessary.  Then he laid it on them:

“This is an exceptional trial.  There are times when law, morality and humanity come together to make would otherwise be unlawful.  Those times are when the preservation of human life is involved.  Human life is no less a human life because it resides in a foreign land, or dresses funny, or has a different skin colour.

“It’s also an exceptional case because it is in the area of foreign intelligence.  Foreign intelligence is the one area of our society where democracy and free process is not allowed to go.  Where there is a Faustian pact between the government and the intelligence agencies.  Where the government says ‘we won’t ask any questions’ – and the intelligence agencies say ‘good!  We won’t tell you any lies

Then Peter Murnane, who’s representing himself showed both his character and his motivation to the jury and said what he will say many times during this trial – that he broke a lesser law to protect the lives and property of others from serious threat by the US military.

That the New Zealand government, by allowing the US to run Waihopai, assists the US to commit the great crimes of

– overthrowing legitimate governments

– waging wars of aggression

– kidnapping and torture

– the widespread use of WMDs, particularly depleted Uranium.

It was in opposition to these crimes that the Waihopai Ploughshares deployed nonviolence in the tradition of the Catholic Workers and Ploughshares actions, makingmanifest the prophecy of Isaiah.

Mr Shaw, for Sam Land brought out the great covenants of international law, and said the defendants were acting nonviolently against such consequences of Waihopai asGenocide, torture, arbitrary detention and the targetting in war of civilian populations. supporters picketed outside GCSB HQ in Moreland St.

During the lunch break

After lunch, the prosecution led all of its eight witnesses, six of whom are Police, along with one GCSB security guard and a local farmer.

Because the facts are agreed, I was mainly interested in what the prosecution testimony revealed about the security state, and about the security at Waihopai.

First, the sophisticated and unbeatable security alarms stop working under some “atmospheric condition” (rain).  So does the electrified fencing.

Second there was fog, either “some passing” or “thickly wrapping” the base.  I’m interested in this because none of the accused saw any fog at all, and think it an excuse made up to cover a poor security performance.  I wonder whether the fog might not have beencreated by God in the minds of state security as he walked with his children into the base (just speculatin’).

Third was the respect and acknowledgement of humanity between all the security/police and the three.  It was clear that all these people share mutual respect.

Fourth and final was the showing of video-taped interviews conducted between Detective Kevin Nicholls and Father Peter Murnane – in which Peter’s humanity, knowledge, commitment and ascerbic wit shine through.  What Peter said to Police on the day is exactly the same as he is saying to the Jury today – and the jury must have been impressed with his integrity and genuine feeling for life and Christian principles.

Which rounded out the day in Court.  Support crew and defendants kept on with organising and networking tasks (and prayer).  In the new morning tomorrow the defence will begin calling evidence.  The trial is expected to last another seven days.

Cheers
Bryan

Jury being empanelled now

March 8th, 2010

A beautiful morning in Wellington

Well, the trial process has started, but its venue – Court 3 of the District Court at Ballance St in Wellington – is presntly closed to the public while the Jury is being selected and empannelled.
I’ve counted 3 television networks and 12 media workers altogether waiting at the Courtroom doors, along with 40 supporters and family waiting for admittance.
Over the road another 60 or so are gathered singing and vigilling.
Peter, Adi and Sam are all in good spirits, and were bouyed by the procession of more than 100 from the Cenotaph to the Court.
Peter, as an ordained Dominican priest is the leading public figure, and as I understand it will be representing himself during trial.  Adi and sam each have legal representation, and the principle task in front of them is to get the waihopai three an opportunity to call a range of expert witnesses on hand.
As I understand it, the defendents want to run a necessity defence, while the lawyers also want to test the prosecution case.  All would like to win acquittals, but the three are personnaly prepared for conviction, and willing to do time in prison if it comes to that.
It’s a fine, even glorious day in Wellington.  The spirit is with us.
Cheers
Bryan