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Mohawks acquitted


Windspeaker Staff, Montreal







Page 1

Thirty-seven Mohawks brought to trial on charges stemming from the 1990 Oka crisis have been found not guilty on all counts.

Following five days of deliberations, a Montreal jury cleared 34 of the defendants of a total of 88 charges ranging from participating in a riot and obstructing police to firearms offences.

Three days earlier, Quebec Superior Court Justice Louis Tannenbaum ordered three men acquitted, ruling there was no evidence to support the charges.

"I knew this was coming," said Robert (Mad Jap) Skidders, from the southern Ontario Akwasane reserve, expressing the view that the defence convinced the jury the Mohawks had set up their blockade with peaceful intentions.

"This is an issue that must be dealt with by politicians, not by the courts," said Jenny Jack, a member of the Tlingit tribe in northern B.C. "The jury saw that."

With the acquittals, only three people have been convicted out of more than 40 arrested when the Mohawks left their final hold out in a treatment centre at the end of the 78-day stand-off.

Five other Mohawks were freed earlier this month when the judge ruled there

was not enough evidence against them.

About 30 others have pleaded guilty or been convicted in non-jury trials for offences during the show-down between Natives, the Quebec police and the army.

But while Mohawks celebrated the decisions, some members of Oka's white community expressed outrage.

"I am thinking of leaving Canada," said Jacques Imbeau, whose house was vandalized during the crisis. "I don't know whether this will encourage them to do it again, but it shows our system is very sick."

Oka MP Lise Bourgeault said the decision made no "good sense" and called it

an insult to the white and Native communities affected by the dispute.

But Mohawks still see the verdict as proof of the legitimacy of their grievances.

"The acquittal means recognition - recognition that we are a people," Skidders said.

Crown lawyers have not said whether they will appeal the verdict but are reviewing the case.