New Zealand peace activists target military spy base

By agency reporter
May 7, 2008

A Catholic priest who supported freed Algerian asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui is one of three people who have been charged with inflicting an embarrassing blow against a top-secret military spy base in New Zealand.

Dominican friar Peter Murnane joined organic gardener Adrian Leason and Hokianga farmer Sam Land in last week's early-morning non-violent direct action on the Waihopai satellite communications interception station, near Blenheim - reports the New Zealand Herald (

They used sickles to puncture one of two 30m rubber balloons that protect radar aerials from the weather.

Prime Minister Helen Clark called the raid "a senseless act of vandalism", and the head of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) ordered an urgent investigation into the base's security.

It appears that the weather may have helped the protesters' cause. A "pea souper" fog on the morning of the raid made security cameras useless, said GCSB director Bruce Ferguson and "aided and assisted the offenders no end".

Australian-born Peter Murnane provided accommodation in Auckland to Ahmed Zaoui, the Algerian refugee originally accused of being a terrorist but later cleared of these charges.

Mr Murnane has a history of activism that includes spilling blood on the floor of the United States consulate in protest at the Iraq war.

The three men, calling themselves the "Waihopai Anzac Ploughshares", broke through three security fences before attacking the dome with sickles.

They then built a shrine and knelt down in prayer to remember the people killed by United States military activity.

They were remanded in custody after appearing in Blenheim District Court yesterday afternoon charged with causing intentional damage and entering a building with intent to commit a crime.

They said the raid was "responding to the Bush Administration's admission that intelligence gathering is the most important tool in the so-called war on terror".

Spokesman Manu Caddie said the first goal of the protest trio was to be faithful to the gospels, and if it drew public attention to the spy base "that is a bonus".

The GCSB is looking into the apparent ease in which the three men got into the base.


See also: Glynn Cardy, Why Christians are troublemakers -

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