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HONOLULU — Hawaii County's top prosecutor said Friday he will dismiss charges against about 10 of the 31 protesters who were arrested while blocking construction of a giant telescope on a mountain held sacred by Native Hawaiians.
The Thirty Meter Telescope, planned near the summit of Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island, would be one of the world's largest telescopes. People are protesting the $1.4 billion project for a range of reasons, including wanting to protect sacred land from desecration, curb development and gain a sense of control over local resources.
Prosecuting Attorney Mitch Roth told The Associated Press he will drop the cases against those charged with trespassing, though his office might decide to re-file them later. The remaining people arrested last month were charged with obstruction of government operations.
Roth declined to say why he's moving to dismiss some of the counts but noted they warrant further investigation. "We don't charge cases unless we can prove them beyond a reasonable doubt," he said.
Kealoha Pisciotta, one of the Big Island leaders behind the effort to stop the telescope, said she's happy to hear some of the cases will be dismissed. "Fundamentally and morally, how can it be trespassing in our house of worship and prayer?" she said.
The next court date in the case is scheduled for June 18. Construction on the project has been halted since last month amid protests and arrests of opponents blocking crews from accessing the site.