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Judge ponders decision on spy base damages

Published: 5:52AM Monday August 08, 2011 Source: ONE News

A judge has reserved his decision in a civil case against the Waihopai protesters for damages.

Anti-war activists Peter Murname, Adrian Leason and Sam Land were sued by the Crown in the High Court in Wellington for more than $1 million worth of damage from their attack on the Waihopai spy base three years ago.

The peace protesters sabotaged a satellite dome cover at the Government Communications Security Bureau satellite station near Blenheim.

They have been called the dome-busters, and outside court, they were as defiant as their name.

Leason said he did not feel any sense of moral obligation to pay the bill for the damage.

"Absolutely not. It was moral obligation that led us to disarm the base. We've exercised our moral obligation to defend the innocents in Iraq," he said.

Three years ago, the protesters were armed with sickles when they attacked the satellite station.

"We did that with a purpose to expose the base, to shut it down temporarily, to stop death, to stop torture, which it is instrumental in doing," said Murname.

The pair, along with a third protester, Sam Land, successfully used that defence at their trial for intentional damage, arguing they committed their crime to stop the greater crime of the spy base's role in civilian deaths.

But despite their acquittal, the Attorney-General says they should still have to pay $1.2 million to repair the dome, plus court costs.

"I'm a pensioner, so they might just dock my pension for the next 500 years," Murname said.

The Crown said the men's actions can't be claimed to be self-defence, or defence of another and they should be made to pay up.

Crown Counsel Austin Powell dismissed the protesters' claim that they were acting to protect people overseas.

"This cannot be raised in domestic proceedings and in any event the relief that they seek - judicial endorsement of acts of destruction of public property - would never be available," Powell said.

Land did not attend today's hearing. He is busy preparing compost on his farm.

The judge reserved his decision after the one-day hearing.