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Brothers tell Urewera trial of being led into bush

Published: 11:39AM Wednesday February 22, 2012 Source: ONE News

Two brothers have given evidence against the "Urewera Four", telling the jury how they were taken to alleged military training camps in the bush.

Well known activist Tame Iti, Emily Bailey, Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara and Urs Signer are charged with illegal possession of firearms and participation in an organised criminal group. They have pleaded not guilty.

The Crown alleges the four accused were the ringleaders of military-style camps designed to train people to fight for the self-governance of the Tuhoe region.

Partially blindfolded, two brothers were led into the bush in January 2007, guided by Iti, the High Court in Auckland heard today.

But it was not long before their car was stopped at an armed roadblock.

"There were then three shots fired from somewhere around the vehicle," the younger brother said.

"We were told to hop out of the car. People popped out from both sides of the vehicle and told us to lie on the ground."

Along with a personal trainer, the brothers, aged just 14 and 16 at the time, thought they were going to talk to a group of Maori youth about kickboxing techniques.

Instead, the Crown says, they arrived at a military training camp.

The older brother said: "I was a little bit in shock at what was going on, didn't really believe what was happening."

His brother says he was told the group were practising how to ambush cars.

"I was a bit taken by surprise, wasn't expecting it at all," he said.

And his older brother says he overheard Iti telling someone why the group was there.

He said Iti claimed that they were preparing troops for battle "and stuff like that".

Asked by Crown prosecutor Ross Burns if there was anything else, he said: "Yes, and urban warfare."

But under cross examination the court heard how the brothers were later apologised to for the fright they were given when they first arrived in the bush, and that the apology was well received.

Defence lawyers put to the men that they went into the bush of their own free will, and they agreed.

"There were no threats made to you were there?" defence lawyer Russell Fairbrother asked.

"That's not quite true. There was a lot of yelling. Someone with a gun says 'hop on the ground' do you normally just not comply with that?" one of the brothers said.

The jury were told Iti was also forced to the ground in the roadblock, treated the same as the brothers, but did not appear surprised by what was going on.

The Crown case continues.