Hawaii refuses culture-based mediation for telescope arrests

AP News
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Posted: Sep 23, 2015 7:11 PM
Hawaii refuses culture-based mediation for telescope arrests

HONOLULU (AP) — A form of mediation based in Hawaiian tradition won't be an option for protesters arrested for blocking construction of a giant telescope.

The state won't participate in the mediation known as hooponopono, said Josh Wisch, spokesman for the state attorney general's office, in a statement Wednesday.

Proceeding with hooponopono is no longer a "constructive option," he said.

Hooponopono is traditionally used within families to work out differences, using prayer and discussion.

Three defendants asked for the practice as an alternative to a trial. It seemed likely to happen after Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth supported the idea.

Roth had said it would only be used for about 20 people charged with obstruction in April. There have been subsequent arrests in the battle to build the telescope on Mauna Kea, a mountain many Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

"Hooponopono was first raised several months ago, when the legal landscape was different," Wisch's statement said. "There are now are cases related to Mauna Kea pending in multiple courts in multiple jurisdictions, enforcement actions have been taken and challenged, and additional individuals and groups with no connection to the defendants who first requested hooponopono have asked to engage in a dialogue regarding stewardship of the mountain."

Roth couldn't immediately be reached for comment on the state's decision.

A total of 31 people were arrested in April when protesters blocked workers from accessing the construction site near Mauna Kea's summit for the planned $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope. Roth's office later moved to dismiss trespassing charges for 10 defendants.

Roth said hooponopono was being considered only for the remaining 21 people charged with obstructing. A few of them told prosecutors they preferred to proceed with a trial, he said. It wasn't being considered for 12 people who are charged in a second round of arrests.

After that, 15 people were arrested for violating an emergency rule created to stop protesters from camping on the mountain.

Construction remains stalled amid the protests.

Hooponopono has been used in other court matters.

In 2006, a federal judge in Honolulu let Hawaiian groups and the state's largest museum use hooponopono in a dispute over a cache of priceless artifacts. It has been used in family court cases such as custody disputes, said Malcolm Naea Chun, a Native Hawaiian culture scholar.

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