Auckland man convicted of sedition

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Thursday, June 8, 2006

Auckland, New Zealand — Freelance journalist Tim Selwyn has been found guilty of sedition. This is the first conviction for sedition in New Zealand in over 75 years.

Selwyn faced two charges of "making a seditious statement" relating to pamphlets he had left near the scene of an axe attack on the Prime Minister's electorate office in November, 2004, which had called upon like-minded New Zealanders to "engage in similar acts of civil disobedience" and to "take similar action of their own". The charges were laid under s81(1)(c) of New Zealand's Crimes Act 1961, which criminalises any statement intended to "incite... or encourage violence, lawlessness, or disorder". The offence carries a penalty of up to two year's jail. After deliberating for almost four hours, the jury convicted Selwyn of one charge, and acquitted him of the other.

Speaking after the trial, Selwyn said that the jury had "criminalised a press statement".

The trial has raised significant controversy within New Zealand, with many bloggers protesting. Blogger Idiot/Savant called the verdict "shameful" and said that it "opened the door to further prosecutions for what is effectively a political crime".

Selwyn is currently free on bail pending sentencing next month, and is likely to appeal.

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