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Scoop OpEd: Wilson's Role In Zaoui's Detention

Scoop Editorial: Margaret Wilson's Role In Ahmed Zaoui's Detention

Opinion By Kevin List – Scoop Chief Reporter

The Attorney General, Margaret Wilson, has allowed the Crown to appeal a Court of Appeal decision permitting detained refugee Ahmed Zaoui the right of freedom of expression – the move is a legal gagging writ from the highest level.

Margaret Wilson’s office announced the Crown’s intention to block media access to Zaoui stating: "The Court of Appeal decision is at odds with other authority in this area and the reason for the appeal is to clarify the law."

The Court of Appeal made it quite clear that its decision related specifically to Mr Zaoui and his case. The Government's assertion that it wishes to 'clarify the law' seems nothing more than a smokescreen.

Rather than aiding legal clarity, the Crown’s latest move in this long-legal-saga seems designed to gag Mr Zaoui and prevent any discussion surrounding his case reaching a wide audience via Television New Zealand. TVNZ won the Court of Appeal case against the Crown, the Justices’ ruling permitted TVNZ journalists to have access to Zaoui for an interview.

It appears the Crown’s primary concern – and that of the Department of Corrections’ CEO and senior government ministers including Margaret Wilson - would be should an interview take place, Mr Zaoui would likely talk about his time spent in detention, particularly his time spent in solitary confinement in Paremoremo's D Block.

During the early part of 2003 Margaret Wilson was the Acting Minister for Corrections. It was during this period that a number of internal investigations were instigated regarding abuse inflicted upon Mr Zaoui by various prison guards. Following these investigations various guards were moved from D Block. The Department of Corrections then reviewed the way it conducted strip searches.

At present the Office of the Ombudsman is investigating a number of other complaints involving the Department of Corrections’ handling of Mr Zaoui. The Ombudsman's investigation was sparked by concerns from former Correction's Minister, Matt Robson. It is understood by Scoop that a number of Mr Robson's concerns relate to Mr Zaoui's detention in D block – a detention that coincided with Margaret Wilson's tenure as Acting Corrections Minister.

ENDS

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