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Locke rejects 'secret trial' for Zaoui


Locke rejects 'secret trial' for Zaoui

Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson Keith Locke is calling on the Immigration Minister to abide by the decision of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority and allow Ahmed Zaoui to stay in the country.

Mr Locke visited Ahmed Zaoui in Paremoremo Prison on Friday evening, after he received word he had been granted refugee status. He has visited Mr Zaoui in prison on other occasions, helping him get books, a TV and other facilities, and checking on his treatment.

"I would appeal to Lianne Dalziell to not now proceed with the 'security risk certificate' procedure," said Mr Locke. "It would be a sad day for democracy if intelligence officials were able to trump the considered decision of the Refugee Status Appeal Authority in the Zaoui case.

"We simply can't rely on the 'security risk certificate' process, based on secret information provided by overseas intelligence services - information Mr Zaoui and his lawyers are denied access to.

"Without knowledge of information being used against him, Mr Zaoui would be 'fighting windmills' - to use the phrase Ms Dalziell used in Opposition in 1999 to criticise the 'security risk' immigration amendment.

"We know from the debate about Saddam's alleged links with al Qaeda that security agents operate in a murky world, where 'intelligence' is distorted for political purposes.

"We can't trust the repressive Algerian government to tell us the truth about Mr Zaoui. And any intelligence from France, Belgium, or the United States, would be coloured by those governments' accommodation to the Algerian regime.

"In Mr Zaoui's case there is no substitute for the transparent legal process of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, where the asylum seeker has been able to have access to all the charges against him.

"The outcome of the Zaoui case is critical for civil liberties in this country. It is our 'Guantanamo'. It has the potential to start us down a slippery slope of undermining the fundamental principles of justice - the right to see the charges made against you, and the right of the public to be able to see that justice has been done.

"The Refugee Status Appeal Authority's decision also highlights how unjust it was to imprison Mr Zaoui in such oppressive conditions, in Paremoremo's D-Block for eight months. At the very least we should meet the wish he expressed to me that he be shifted to a more tolerable prison, while his case proceeds."

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