Sedition trial underway in Auckland, New Zealand

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Tuesday, June 6, 2006

The trial of Timothy Selwyn, 31, for publishing seditious statements has begun in Auckland.

The charge of publishing seditious statements refers to leaflets found in Ponsonby Road, 2 km from the Prime Minister's office in Sandringham Road, Auckland, after an axe attack on the window of the Prime Minister's electorate office, during the foreshore and seabed legislation debate.

Sedition is defined within New Zealand as being "speech, writing or behaviour intended to encourage rebellion or resistance against the government". Selwyn has been charged under section 81(1)(c) of the New Zealand Crimes Act 1961, which forbids any such publication which means "[t]o incite, procure, or encourage violence, lawlessness, or disorder". The New Zealand Police cite the pamphlet as being seditious.

This is the first prosecution for sedition in New Zealand for at least 75 years.

The decision to charge Selwyn has drawn considerable controversy within New Zealand, with many bloggers protesting. Blogger Idiot/Savant, who has extensively researched the history of sedition in New Zealand, called the law "an archaic holdover from feudalism, which should have been relegated to the dustbin of history long ago." Blogger Lewis Holden, stated "Allowing the state to prosecute an individual for publishing an idea is morally abhorrent and wrong. The state should not have such a power at its disposal: to do so invites abuse of our right to freedom of speech."

At the time of the attack, Prime Minister Helen Clark said "This is violent criminal behaviour and there is no place for it in a democracy...".

The Crown says to find him guilty the jury must decide if the pamphlets encouraged other New Zealanders to break the law through similar crimes, and whether Selwyn knew that is what the material set out to do.


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