Iti began a loud haka as he was escorted out to begin his sentence.
The four – Iti, Urs Signer, Kemara and Emily Bailey – were found guilty of unlawful possession of military-style firearms and Molotov cocktails at training camps held in the Urewera Ranges in 2006 and 2007.
Signer and Bailey had their sentences adjourned but home detention was signalled.
Supporters in the packed public gallery chanted with Iti as court security hurriedly cleared the court.
Crown prosecutor Ross Burns today urged the judge to impose jail terms saying the crimes were serious and the jury had rejected the explanation that the camps were “wanangas” or training for people who wanted to work in the security industry.
“I still wait, as does the rest of the country, (for an explanation) as to what the Molotov cocktails were for,” he said.
“The suggestion that police should have gone up to Mr Iti and told him to pull his head in is naive in the extreme. Firearms are not a joke,” Burns said.
Justice Hansen was emphatic that despite a “Dad’s Army” aspect to the camps, their intent was serious.
“A private militia was being established. That is a frightening prospect to our society.”
The judge said one of those involved held extreme anarchist views and there was talk among the participants of killing, using explosives to kill, and attempts to “smash the state”.
The four’s defence lawyers argued for discharges without conviction – in essence, no penalty – but Justice Hansen denied the applications saying convictions had already been entered and there was no jurisdiction to do otherwise.
Russell Fairbrother, for Iti, said his client had a good character and a leading role in his Tuhoe tribe.
He said the jury’s failure to rule on the organised criminal group charge meant the activities observed could “arouse curiosity” only.
“It is a big step to move to something of a malign purpose.”
The defence maintained the camps were wanangas for learning bush craft but the judge said the jury had rejected this “utterly implausible” explanation.
If the jury had accepted they were wanangas, the camps would have had a legitimate purpose and that would have been a legal defence.
As the legitimate explanations had been rejected, “What possible other explanation could there be for what the participants were demonstrably doing?” Justice Hansen asked.
After a six-week trial earlier this year, all but Signer were found guilty of five charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon – Molotov cocktails.
Urs Signer was found guilty on four charges of unlawful possession of firearms, and one charge of unlawful possession of a restricted weapon.
Iti, Kemara and Bailey were found not guilty of four firearms charges, and Signer not guilty of five.
The jury could not decide on the most serious charge laid against the four – participating in an organised criminal group.
The Crown decided this month not to pursue a retrial on that charge, because doing so would add further expense to an already high cost case, and unprecedented media coverage could make it difficult to find an impartial jury.
The trial jury were asked to decide whether Iti, Kemara, Bailey and Signer were participating in military training camps in the Urewera ranges in October 2007, or if the four were engaged in a more innocent pursuit, teaching people skills to gain employment in the security industry in the Middle East.
- © Fairfax NZ News