WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Thoughts from the courtroom gallery

Apr10Challenge.jpg On Wednesday, March 10, as part of the Challenge 2000 Gap Programme we visited the Wellington District Court to witness part of the Waihopai Spy Base Trial (March 8 – 17).
Apart from what I had read in the newspaper, I didn’t know too much about it. The first thing I noticed when we walked in was the huge number of supporters, many sitting on the floor because the public gallery was full; some taking turns to sit in on the trial while others looked after children outside.
The support and love for these three men was obvious. We arrived during Adrian Leason’s cross-examination and I found myself suddenly absorbed by his defence – acting in an effort to save others from danger. I grew worried that such a selfless person might be convicted.
This made me think about the law and about what is right – it is not black and white at all.
In court there were two different perspectives on morals – the Crown’s moral thinking being the law against intentional damage – and therefore Adrian Leason, Fr Peter Murnane and Sam Land were guilty – and a far greater moral perspective which the three shared: that they were acting for the greater good of preventing harm being done to helpless others.
Their faith was obvious and there was a deep sense of peace in the court room. I was struck by the number of elderly people and the large number of religious sisters and priests who were supporting them.
It was faith in action and the people there seemed to know what they had done was right – really right.
The outcome has really got me thinking about ethical issues and how the gospel calls everyone to act and to think about what is actually going on in our country and in the world today.  
Kirsty Leedom
I walked into the Waihopai court case aware of it because of media attention and discussions within the church.
It was interesting to observe the three accused and their supporters. It felt a bit like we had just stepped into the 1960s – many were dressed simply – jeans and farm shirts, dreadlocks and beards. It was easy to dismiss these people as greeny hippies who live in another world.
But as I listened to their defence I soon realised they were intellectual, philosophical and spiritual people living a simple lifestyle for peace and justice.
I loved the analogy one of them used about why they had damaged the balloon (covering the satellite dish). He said that it was like a group of school kids who smashed a car window with their cricket bat. They got into trouble until people realised that there was an unconscious baby locked in the car. Those kids acted to save a life.
It seemed to fit well with their defence – they acknowledged that they broke the law, but their actions were justified because they believed the spy base was used to contribute to the death of innocent children in Iraq.
Prompted to ponder
Their actions were designed to make a peaceful protest to inform New Zealanders about what was happening.
Although I felt their actions had good intentions and they did get their message out, I was greatly surprised and pleased that all three were acquitted of all charges because I thought the US government would have put pressure on the NZ government to have someone found guilty.
The visit made me think about right and wrong, what Christians are really concerned about and many other global issues.