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Govt must resist Algerian attempt to get Zaoui

25 January, 2004

Govt must resist Algerian attempt to get Zaoui back

Green MP Keith Locke is urging the government to resist Algerian pressure to deport Ahmed Zaoui when ambassador Soufiane Mimouni visits early next month.

"This is not the time to host a representative of the Algerian regime," said Mr Locke, the Green Foreign Affairs spokesperson.

"Beyond a smokescreen of trade talks, Mr Mimouni will try to convince our government that Ahmed Zaoui is not a legitimate refugee. For years his government has been circulating lies that Mr Zaoui is a terrorist.

"Mr Mimouni will attempt to induce New Zealand into believing Mr Zaoui would be safe if he returned to Algeria but in fact politicians of Mr Zaoui's background are severely harassed in Algeria.

"Mr Zaoui, as a democratically-elected critic of Algeria's repressive government, has long been a thorn in their side so there is a serious danger that he would be tortured or killed by the regime or its associated paramilitary factions.

"So far, New Zealand officials have been too trusting of the Algerian government. The original reasons for throwing Mr Zaoui in jail here was that there was an arrest warrant out for him in Algeria after he'd been tried in absentia and sentenced to death.

"Mr Zaoui could face wrongful imprisonment, torture or death if the New Zealand government bends to the Algerian regime's pressure. We must not end up with Mr Zaoui's blood on our hands," said Mr Locke.

ENDS

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