Graveyard attack accused denies charges

October 23, 2012 by Miriam Bell
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Three men accused of desecrating over 20 Jewish graves, in Auckland’s oldest cemetery late last week, appeared in court charged with wilful damage today [Tuesday].

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The Auckland District Court granted a 19 and 20-year-old interim name and image suppression, but denied it to their 23-year-old co-accused.

That man, Nathan Symington, told media he was innocent of the charges, said his arrest was a “witch hunt”, and described the police involved in the case as “unprofessional”.

He also told media that he felt like “killing myself over this”, that his partner was Maori and he was not a racist, and that “he felt like the African Americans did before they were liberated”.

Symington claimed his connection to the cemetery attack was simply that he had shared a photo which was sent to him, but said he did not know who was responsible for the attack.

His co-defendants did not want to comment.

Over the weekend, Socialist Aotearoa held a rally outside the cemetery to protest the attack and the National Front – which it [SA] said was responsible, while more community leaders publicly condemned the graveyard desecration.

Auckland City mayor Len Brown said the attack was deplorable. “Auckland is one of the world’s most diverse cities and we embrace our multi-cultural heart. We have zero tolerance for racism, bigotry and ethnic intolerance.”

He said Auckland had been founded on principles of religious and cultural freedom and equality. “The Jewish community in our city have, and continue to, contribute outstandingly to the life of our people.”

Brown added that the cemetery’s security had been increased, and would now include council surveillance and monitoring, to try and prevent further damage.

B’nai B’rith Australia-New Zealand vice-president, Dr Jim Salinger, said he was shocked and appalled to learn of the attack. “This is really an attack on all reasonable people in a civilised society and I would regard New Zealand as a very civilised society and we don’t want this sort of thing creeping in.”

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Pat Dunn, said the vandalism of the graves was a despicable act. “I am disgusted that any person or persons would stoop to this level of cowardice to desecrate the graves of our forebears. I extend my solidarity and sympathy to my sisters and brothers of the Jewish community.”

And Race Relations Commissioner, Joris de Bres, suggested that, if people wanted to make a practical response to try and counter the anti-Semitic attack, they should make a donation to the Holocaust Centre of New Zealand at http://www.holocaustcentre.org.nz/index.php/support-us .

Meanwhile, in a possibly connected incident which occurred on the same night as the cemetery desecration, an inner city suburb house was defaced with anti-Semitic graffiti. The owner, who is not Jewish, told media the police were investigating whether there was a connection between the two attacks.

 

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