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Tame Iti to continue conviction fight

Published: 5:25AM Wednesday February 27, 2013 Source: ONE News

Maori activist Tame Iti is not giving up the fight to quash his conviction.

Iti was released from prison this morning after serving nine months of his 30 month sentence.

He was one of four people found guilty in the High Court in Auckland of firearms offences over alleged military-style camps in the Urewera Ranges and was sentenced to two and a half years in prison last May.

This morning he said he harboured no resentment over his imprisonment but was not ready to give up his legal fight to against his conviction.

"We've filed our papers on the application," said Iti's lawyer Russell Fairbrother.

"The Crown have responded with their opposition and now we are waiting on the court to make their mind up as to whether they'll hear the full appeal."

A defiant Iti said he will continue to practice bush craft and use firearms.

"It's an integral part of my culture&so what's the crime in that?" he said.

He said he would also continue his fight for Maori self rule and determination.

Iti's son Wairere Iti said the jail term had been a steep learning process for his father and he would take his experiences and apply them to his work in Tuhoe.

"I guess that comes with being a political activist for so many years - over 40 years now - you don't get angry with that kind of stuff," he said today.

"You just work out what you are going to do and how you are going to change things."

Early release

With no minimum imprisonment date set, Iti was granted parole on February 14.

The Parole Board said it was satisfied he no longer posed an undue risk to the safety of the community.

Iti walked free before daylight. He was expected to be released at 7am.

"An early rise this morning to meet with my whanau in Kihikihi. It feels good to be out... Now where is my cappuccino," he tweeted this morning.

Later at a press conference at his mother's marae, Hukanui Marae in Gordonton, he said he was looking forward to family time.

"I look forward to be at home with my partner, my with whanau, with my little dog..I hope he recognises my voice when I call him out today."

Speaking about his time in prison, Iti said he was sad to see so many young Maori men serving prison sentences, saying it was a failure of the system.

He said it took him 45 days to adjust to being behind bars.

"I had to work out that there is no time for me to have a cry-baby about anything, so I had to look at how am I able to navigate myself with rapists, murderers, wannabe gangsters."

He said he was productive in prison, saying he spent a lot of time painting, working out and also managed to get himself a job working in a garage for 40 cents an hour. He stated on a rate of 20 cents an hour.

"I didn't realise I was getting paid for doing the work," he said.

He said he is writing a political book about his situation, and also a cooking book.

Iti was arrested during the 2007 Urewera raids, with the Crown alleging military-style training camps were being held in the Ruatoki area throughout 2006 and 2007.

Te Rangikaiwhiria Kemara was given the same sentence as Iti and has also been granted parole.

Urs Signer and Emily Bailey were also found guilty of firearms offences and are serving home detention sentences.

The Crown claimed the group was planning to use guerrilla warfare to achieve self-determination in the Tuhoe region if Treaty of Waitangi negotiations with the Crown fell through.

However, the High Court jury was unable to decide whether the four were part of an organised criminal group.

- with Fairfax