IssueApril 2010
Feature by Matthew Biddle

Three Christian peace activists, charged with burglary and unlawful damage at a US spy base in New Zealand, were acquitted on 17 March.

Father Peter Murnane, Adrian Leason and Sam Land stood trial for NZ$1m damage to a 30m-high pressurized dome covering a satellite at the Waihopai spy base. Waihopai is New Zealand’s biggest contribution to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and part of Echelon, a five-nation network of global surveillance.

The three broke in by cutting through three security fences, including a high-voltage electrified fence and razor wire, before using a sickle to deflate the dome, and kneeling in prayer for those killed in these wars.

Both sides agreed on the facts; the defence’s case was that the three had a “claim of right,” or a genuine belief in the lawfulness of their actions.

With the dish uncovered for 15 months, it was determined that it pointed towards Chinese, Japanese and Russian satellites. After the trial, Murnane said: “We damaged property at the spy base in order to save victims of war and torture.”

Topics: Anti-war action