New Zealand’s top legal official ruled Thursday that the country’s anti-terror law adopted after the Sept. 11 attacks is incoherent and cannot be used to charge a dozen people arrested at military-style training camps last month.
It was the first time suspects were arrested under the 2002 law, passed in the wake of the terror attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. in 2001.More than 300 police took part in the raids three weeks ago on both North and South Island after officers conducted surveillance on camps allegedly used to train Maori independence activists and other people on weapons and survival in the bush.Police said military-style guns, ammunition, homemade napalm bombs and Molotov cocktails had been seized in the raids, and that 17 people were arrested. Most are still in police custody.Twelve of the 17 were judged by police to have been involved in terrorism activities. All of them face weapons charges.Solicitor General David Collins said police had good reason to investigate the alleged weapons training activity, but that the nation’s anti-terror laws were too complex to apply in this instance.”I have concluded the legislation is unnecessarily complex, incoherent, and, as a result, almost impossible to apply to the domestic circumstances observed by the police in this case,” Collins said.As a result, the solicitor general said he was “unable to authorize the prosecutions” under the terror law, and advised police of the ruling. However, he said police could continue to prosecute the 17 under charges of illegal possession and use of firearms and other weapons.Hundreds of people have protested against the raids and arrests, claiming police were illegally clamping down on legitimate rights and calling on them to “free all political prisoners.”The 2002 law was the first New Zealand legislation to define a “terrorist act,” and created offenses relating to terrorist bombings and financing terrorism. Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.