Factsheet – Ahmed Zaoui
FACTSHEET – AHMED ZAOUI
1987-91 Zaoui works as Associate Professor of Theology and Comparative Religious Studies at the University of Algiers
1989 Front Islamique du Salut (Islamic Salvation Front) (“FIS”) created, founding leaders are Dr Abbassi Madani and Ali Belhadj
1991 Zaoui joins the FIS
1991 Zaoui accepts role of FIS candidate for the Algiers suburb of Cheraga
1991 First multiparty, democratic elections in 30 years are held in Algeria. Zaoui wins Cheraga seat in first round of Algerian parliamentary elections. On national level, FIS captures majority of seats in landslide victory.
Election results rejected by Algerian military generals who stage coup d’tat. Founding FIS leaders Dr Madani and Mr Belhadj arrested and later sentenced to imprisonment
FIS is banned, thousands of FIS members and supporters murdered or “disappear”
Armed resistance begins in Algeria
1993 Algerian court issues in-absentia death sentence against Zaoui
Zaoui flees Algeria
Zaoui’s father arrested, father in law arrested and tortured
Zaoui reaches Europe on false passport, applies for refugee status in Belgium
Zaoui elected to FIS Executive Committee in exile – Rabah Kabir as leader
Zaoui settles in Belgium, brings wife and children illegally to Belgium after threats to their life in Algeria
1993-5 Zaoui becomes prominent religious and political leader in Algerian community in Belgium, home becomes drop-in centre for Algerians and other migrants
Zaoui writes articles condemning violence in Algeria and in support of a peaceful political solution
Zaoui preaches at mosques in Belgium and Holland condemning violence in Algeria and supporting political solution to growing crisis
Late 1993 Zaoui approached by Catholic Sant’ Egidio Community in Rome, asked to help organise and participate in Algerian multi-party peace negotiations to be held in Rome in early 1995 for ending the violence in Algeria. Together with Sant’ Egidio, Zaoui begins to organise and draft a format for the negotiations.
Aug 1994 Dispute within FIS Executive Committee over Party’s stance towards armed groups. Kabir and others support FIS merger with an armed group, Zaoui opposes merger and insists that founding FIS principles of non-violence be maintained.
Impasse within Executive Committee reached, Zaoui protests by suspending his Exec Committee membership.
Kabir issues press statement claiming Zaoui has left the FIS to join the Armed Islamic Group (GIA). Widely reported in European media
Late 1994 Zaoui continues preparations for Rome Conference negotiations
Early 1995 Rome Conference held. Algerian and French Governments refuse to attend. The “Rome Platform for a Political and Peaceful Solution to the Algerian Crisis” is signed 13 January 1995 by all major Algerian political parties. Algeria alleges that the signatories are “terrorists”.
1995 Paris Bombings
March 1995 During visit to Belgium by the Algerian Foreign Minister, Zaoui is arrested and charged with being the “head of a criminal association”. Media claim the “association” is the GIA. Zaoui affirms his FIS membership and denies GIA involvement
Zaoui’s refugee application declined
Sept 1995 Zaoui acquitted of criminal association charge by lower court in Brussels, convicted on false passport charge – defence of necessity rejected.
Belgian authorities refuse to release Zaoui from prison
Nov 1995 Zaoui’s acquittal overturned by Belgium Court of Appeal. Zaoui given four-year suspended sentence. Belgian authorities refuse to release Zaoui from prison and look for ways to deport him
1996 Belgian Aliens Consultative Committee affirms Zaoui’s membership of the FIS and acknowledges there is nothing conclusive to link him to GIA. Committee concludes that “any proposal to deport [Zaoui] is unjustified”
Zaoui starts hunger strike against continued detention
After a year in prison, Zaoui is released, placed under house arrest
Zaoui organises the “Call of the Forty”, a joint statement signed by forty FIS leaders, condemning terrorist attacks in Algeria
Oct 1997 In response to growing divisions within FIS leadership abroad, Zaoui and large number of other FIS leaders form “Islamic Salvation Front Coordination Council abroad” (CCFIS). CCFIS objectives are to ensure founding FIS principles are followed. Zaoui presides over CCFIS.
Oct 1997 Algeria military regime negotiates truce with various armed groups, cease-fire declared
CCFIS and Zaoui oppose truce, claiming the Algerian crisis is a political rather than a security problem and that armed groups have no right to discuss the political future of the country
1997 Zaoui and his family leave Belgium secretly and seek asylum in Switzerland. Belgian authorities do not request extradition.
Swiss authorities place Zaoui under house arrest, cut internet and fax access. Zaoui appeals to European Court of Human Rights
1998 Zaoui family deported from Switzerland before outcome of their refugee application. Flown by private jet to Burkina Faso, a tiny underdeveloped African nation. Outcry from Amnesty International and other human rights organisations.
Zaoui banned in Burkina Faso from being reported in the visual media and making political announcements or declarations.
Kidnap attempt by Algerian Government
Zaoui secretly contacted by telephone on three occasions by Algerian President Bouteflika.
1999 Zaoui family leaves Burkina Faso and travels to Malaysia. Zaoui travels on false passport supplied by Burkina Faso officials
Zaoui enrols in university in Kuala Lumpur
2000 International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) releases report, “France: Paving the Way for Arbitrary Justice” criticising French anti-terrorism “criminal association” laws and judicial procedures
Sept 2001 Zaoui convicted in absentia by French Court on “criminal association” charges, given light suspended sentence and banned from re-entering French territory. France does not request extradition
Nov 2002 French Canal Plus television documentary uncovers Algerian Government’s infiltration and manipulation of the GIA. Also exposes French Intelligence Service’s complicity with Algerian intelligence officials in alleged GIA attacks on France, including Paris bombing
Dec 2002 Fearing deportation to Algeria, Zaoui leaves Malaysia and travels to New Zealand. Unable to obtain an Algerian passport, Zaoui forced to travel on false South African passport.
Zaoui seeks refugee status immediately upon arrival in New Zealand
Zaoui placed in isolation in Paremoremo Maximum Security Prison
12 Dec 2002 Dr Mourad Dhina, elected Head of new FIS Consultative Council abroad, contacts NZ Minister of Immigration in support of Zaoui
July 2003 Founding FIS leader Dr Abbass Madani released from prison
August 2003 Ahmed Zaoui granted refugee status in New Zealand in a 230 page decision of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, which concludes -
- That Zaoui holds a well-founded fear of persecution (torture, execution) should he be returned to Algeria
- That by a “demonstrable margin”, there is no probative or reliable evidence sufficient to give rise to “serious reasons for considering” Zaoui has committed acts or crimes in terms of Article 1F of the Refugee Convention, and specifically for considering him to be a member, let alone a leader, of the GIA or any other armed group, or that he has committed or participated in or directed any act of terrorism, violence or other criminal conduct.
- That, contrary to allegations, Zaoui is “an articulate, intelligent, committed and principled individual who, despite the hurdles placed before him over the last ten years, remains a passionate advocate for peace through democracy in Algeria, and for bringing to justice those guilty of the human rights abuses of the past decade.”
- That any intelligence relating to Zaoui provided by the Algerian Security Services is dangerously unreliable, and that accuracy of information provided by other security services such as the French and Belgian has frequently been questionable.
- That the “unclassified information” on Zaoui provided to it by the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service [SIS] is superficial and reflects the biases of the Algerian regime.
August 2003 From Malaysia, Dr Abbassi Madani appeals to New Zealand Government to release Zaoui