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Refugee ? Not "Suspected Terrorist"

Refugee ? Not "Suspected Terrorist"

The New Zealand Section of Amnesty International today called for the immediate release of Ahmed Zaoui, the Algerian detained since December last year as a "suspected terrorist", following a finding by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority that he is a genuine refugee.

As Mr Zaoui has been recognized by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority as a political refugee this means that he has not been found guilty of terrorism in their eyes.

"The terms of the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees would not have applied if he had been considered to be guilty of 'war crimes', 'a crime against humanity', 'a crime against peace', or had committed any serious 'non-political crime' in Algeria or elsewhere", said Amnesty International New Zealand Executive Director, Ced Simpson.

"There must be truly compelling evidence to warrant the continued imprisonment of a refugee who was legitimately elected as a parliamentarian in a landslide election for his party in 1991, who has been in enforced exile for a decade since and against whom there has been no clearly substantiated allegations of criminal behavior. These allegations may well have originated with Algerian intelligence services that have been implicated in massive human rights violations since 1992."

Mr Simpson said "New Zealand politicians should reflect carefully on the fact that a well-respected politician elected in fair elections as part of a landslide victory in Algeria in 1991 was now being held in maximum security prison in New Zealand, following a lengthy period of enforced exile."

It is officially acknowledged that at least 100,000 people ? mainly civilians ? have died since the election was blocked by the military.

The Algerian authorities have claimed to "have neutralized" 20,000 "terrorists" during that time.

The Appeals Authority has reviewed Mr Zaoui's case extensively in coming to the decision and the onus is now on the government to publicly justify his continued detention in a maximum security prison.

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