17 Mar 2010

Spy base trio found not guilty

7:11 pm on 17 March 2010

Three men charged over an attack on the Waihopai spy base near Blenheim in 2008 have been found not guilty.

Peter Murnane, Adrian Leason and Sam Land were on trial in Wellington District Court on charges of intentional damage and entering a property with intent to commit a crime.

Claps and cheers erupted in court as the verdicts were read out.

The three admitted sneaking into the base and slashing at one of the satellite domes, but said they were acting to save the lives of others, including victims of the Iraq war.

The jury deliberated for two hours before returning the not guilty verdict.

Father Murnane said all three were delighted at their acquittal.

He said the trio always questioned the purpose of the spy base and why it was allowed on New Zealand soil.

Earlier on Wednesday afternoon, Judge Stephen Harrop summed up the case to jury members, saying the key question was what the men believed at the time they carried out the attack.

He said if they believed they were acting lawfully, even if they were mistaken in that belief, then they must be acquitted.