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Communist League leader protests harassment

Communist League leader protests harassment

*by customs officers at Auckland airport***

A leader of the Communist League, Annalucia Vermunt, has issued an open letter to government officials protesting at how she was treated by customs officers at Auckland International Airport after they detained her on November 17. Vermunt, a meat worker, has been a Communist League candidate in elections, including standing for Manukau East in the November general election. She is an active unionist and has been involved over two decades in political campaigns for Maori rights, women's rights, and other working class struggles.

Over 90 fellow meat workers in Otahuhu, Auckland, have signed Vermunt's protest letter, as have officials of her union, the National Distribution Union, including national president Robert Reid and national secretary Laila Harré. The letter has been signed by other union members and officials as well as by members of political organisations and supporters of civil liberties.

Vermunt was detained at Auckland airport for over four hours. After subjecting her to two interrogations, searching her bags and taking swabs, officials found no evidence of narcotics or contraband. Despite this, she was subjected to a degrading strip search. Then, again without cause, officers continued to detain Vermunt and subjected her to a third interrogation. The customs official demanded that she answer questions about her political activity as a leader of the Communist League.

Vermunt's letter to the ministers of immigration and customs demands that such harassment by officials of their departments cease. Vermunt was previously detained by customs officials at Christchurch airport in 2005 and 2006.

Other individuals signing the protest letter include solicitor and Maori rights activist Annette Sykes; professor of law at the University of Auckland, David Williams; Green Party MP Catherine Delahunty; Helen Te Hira of the Council of Trade Unions Runanga; national secretary of the Service and Food Workers Union, John Ryall; national secretary of the Unite union, Matt McCarten; John Minto of Global Peace and Justice; Omar Hamed of the Auckland University Students Association; and Maire Leadbeater of the Indonesia Human Rights Committee. The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom signed as an organisation.

Annalucia Vermunt commented, "What happened to me is an illustration of how increased powers being granted to police, immigration, and customs will be and are being used to target working class activists and political dissent. The October 15, 2007 police 'anti-terrorism' raids targeting Maori rights supporters demonstrated this. So too does the revelation last weekend of a 10-year infiltration of political organisations in Christchurch by a police spy." Vermunt and the Communist League were among those spied on by Rob Gilchrist, the police informant. "It is important that every violation of our rights, such as happened to me at the airport, is met with a response," Vermunt said. "That's why it is significant that so many have joined me in submitting this open protest letter."

Vermunt's lawyer, Matt Robson, has written to the ministers of immigration, customs, and the Security Intelligence Service, requesting that they release all information they hold on file on Vermunt.

Janet Roth

Communist League

*The open letter to the ministers of immigration and customs, with the list of signatories, is below.* ** *

3/19 Panorama Road

Mt Wellington

Auckland 1060

December 17, 2008

The Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman

Minister of Immigration

The Hon Maurice Williamson

Minister of Customs

Parliament Buildings

Wellington

Dear Ministers

We, the undersigned, are writing to protest against the political harassment of
Annalucia Vermunt by officials at Auckland and Christchurch international airports.

The latest incident occurred on November 17, 2008, at Auckland International
Airport.

Annalucia Vermunt represents the Young Socialists at the World Federation of
Democratic Youth (WFDY), and travels abroad regularly to attend the Federation's
meetings. She was the Communist League candidate for the Manukau East electorate
in the just-concluded parliamentary elections.

On November 17, Vermunt landed at Auckland International Airport on an Emirates
flight from Sydney. Vermunt was detained by customs officials for questioning and advised that she was to be searched for illegal drugs. This included conducting a degrading strip search without her consent. No evidence of illegal drugs was found.

Vermunt was then interrogated about her political involvement in the World Federation of Democratic Youth. She voiced objections to being questioned.

Vermunt was detained for over four hours. Vermunt has been previously interrogated about her political views and activities by officials at Christchurch airport in 2005 and 2006.

Vermunt has participated in WFDY since 2001. She was the organiser of delegations from New Zealand to two WFDY-initiated World Festivals of Youth and Students, in Algeria in 2001, and Venezuela in 2005. Vermunt, who is Maori, also organised the indigenous peoples workshop at the World Festival in Algeria. Following that festival, Vermunt has helped initiate speaking tours of New Zealand by representatives of Polisario, the organisation leading the fight for self-determination for the peoples of Western Sahara.

Vermunt has been a candidate for the Communist League in both parliamentary and
mayoral elections. As a candidate in this year's elections, she visited Ruatoki to take part in activities to commemorate the October 15, 2007 "anti-terror" raids and to extend support to those facing charges following the raids. Vermunt is a meat worker and an active union member on the job.

The questioning of Vermunt about her political activities on all three occasions make

it clear that this harassment has a political motivation. This is a violation of her rights as a citizen.

We request that the Ministers give an undertaking that officers of their departments will not carry out such political harassment against Vermunt in future.

Signed

Annalucia Vermunt, Communist League

The following people have endorsed this open letter:

92 meat workers at CRM Progressive, Auckland Meat Processors, and Wilson Hellaby in Otahuhu, Auckland. (encl. 7 pages)

8 clothing workers from Cambridge Clothing, Auckland. (encl. 1 page)

Name Designation or organisation

(for identification purposes only)

Annette Sykes Ngati Makino, Ngati Pikiao, Solicitor

Dr David V Williams Professor of Law, University of Auckland

Dr Jane Kelsey Professor of Law, University of Auckland

John Minto Spokesperson, Global Peace & Justice Auckland

Catherine Delahunty Green Party Member of Parliament

Helen Te Hira Runanga, NZ Council of Trade Unions Te Kauae Kaimahi

Hon. Laila Harré National Secretary, National Distribution Union

Robert Reid President, National Distribution Union

John Ryall National Secretary, Service and Food Workers Union Nga Ringa Tota

Matt McCarten National Secretary, Unite Union

Mike Treen National Director, Unite Union

Patricia Olive Corowa Australian South Sea Islanders United Council, Metropolitan Local Aboriginal Land Council, Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Redfern, Australia

Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Aotearoa Section

Pauline Tangiora Kuia, Rongomaiwahine

Associate Professor David Robie Pacific Media Centre

Jeff Sluka Associate Professor, Social Anthropology, Massey University

Professor Pamela Gerrish Nunn University of Canterbury

M. Sweeney Senior Official, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union

Jill Ovens Regional Secretary, Service & Food Workers Union

Paul Watson Southern Region Secretary, National Distribution Union

Maxine Gay Textiles and Retail Secretary, National Distribution Union

Paul McAleer Assistant Branch Secretary, Sydney Branch, Maritime Union of Australia

Patrick Brown Communist League candidate for parliament 2008

Nalesoni Tupou

Indonesia Human Rights Committee Maire Leadbeater and Cameron Walker

Fr Peter Murnane OP Dominican Friars

Esteban Espinoza Social Work Coordinator, The Salvation Army, Manukau.

Cr Paul Bruce Greater Wellington Green Regional Councillor

Callum Williamson Young Socialists

Dr Kate Dewes Peace Foundation Disarmament and Security Centre

Rob Green Peace Foundation Disarmament and Security Centre

Nick Kelly President, Tramways Union, Wellington Branch.

Janfrie Wakim

Omar Hamed Auckland University Students Association

Dr Gael Donald Cuba Friendship Society

Kathryn Lehman

David Tutty

Dr Helen Ritchie Researcher

Warren Brewer WISSE and Cuba Friendship Christchurch

Tamawaru Hunt

Teanau Tuiono

Valerie Morse Anarchist and writer

Valma McGowan

Vinnie Molina President, ACFS Perth; Organiser, Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union of Workers

Paul Piesse President, Alliance Party

Daphna Whitmore Workers Party

Grant Morgan Chair of RAM - Residents Action Movement

Oliver Woods RAM - Residents Action Movement

Joe Carolan Socialist Aotearoa

Helen Yensen Ret. teacher, Treaty Educator, Peace and Justice activist

Elliot Blade Auckland University Students Association

Lesley Osborne Vice President, Australia Western Sahara Association

Adam Slade

Agnes Sullivan

Ahlene McKee Organiser, EPMU

Alasdair Macdonald Young Socialists, Australia

Alex Foulkes

Alvin Livingstone Organiser, Service & Food Workers Union

Arne Ericson

Baskaran Appu

Bob Aiken Communist League candidate in Canterbury mayoral election, Sydney

Bogdan Cakic Delegate, SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Brian Pinkstone Associate Professor at School of Economics and

Finance, University of Western Sydney

Brian van Dam

Brigid Mulrennan Teacher

Bronwen Summers

Chris Holland Global Peace and Justice Auckland

Christine Beresford

Clair Trainor Solicitor

Clare Abaffy Solicitor

Colin Parker

Consuela Ale

Daimon Pitiroi

Damien Gilmour Delegate, UNITE Union

Dario Garcia

Dave Brown CWG member of Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction

David Cobourn

Davinia Abbott

Deepak Chandra SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Dereck Picking Organiser, National Distribution Union

Derwin Smith

Dion Martin National Distribution Union

Dion Ramasami

Dr Greg Kleis Alliance spokesperson for the environment

Dr Philip Ferguson University of Canterbury

Dr Russell Johnson Lecturer, Computer Science, Massey University

Doug Cooper Member of Maritime Union of Australia

E. Navarrete

Elizabeth Hulm Secretary, Australia-Cuba Friendship Society, Perth, Australia

Elizabeth Wagner Poet

Ellis Gilmer

Eugen Lepou Delegate, SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Felicity Coggan

Francisco Sagad SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

G. Grigaliunas Kiwi Rail RCO

Geoffrey Radcliffe Teacher

George Fyson

Gerald Davidson Chairperson, Petone Community Board.

Gillian Magee Central Region Administrator, National Distribution Union

Glenn Hazlewood

Hana el Ojeili

Helaina Coote Teacher

Helen Ayres Office manager

Helen Mulrennan Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa

Helen Tulett

Ian Westbrooke

James Robb

Jane Hawkins

Janet Roth

Jared Phillips Workers Party

Jeanine Shiris Ring

Jenny Collett

Jim Holdom

Joan Shields

Joanne Kuniansky Free the Cuban Five Committee, Sydney

Joe Hendren

Johanna Ruiterman Delegate, Postal Workers Union of Aotearoa

John B Turner

John Moore Workers Party

José Gutierrez

Joseph Rangi SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Karyn Amoore Member, EPMU & Unite Union, Global Peace & Justice Auckland

Kate Blakeney

Katherine Rodda

Kris Hansen Architect

Kyle MacFadyen

Lars Ericson

Lee Walkington Local branch vice-president, Communications,

Electrical and Plumbing Union, Australia

Leslie & Marian Bravery

Linda Harris Communist League, Australia

Luke Coxon

Ma'anila Pepe Pita SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Malcolm McAllister Teacher

Manuele Lasalo Member of Australasian Meat Industry Employees' Union

Marcelo Espinoza NZNO delegate

Marjory Lewis Registered nurse

Mark Muller Workers Party

Matt Billington 5th Threat

Mike Blakeney

Nathan Limmer

Pat Bolster

Pat Starkey

Patrick Loughran Anti-Fascist Alliance

Patrick Rooney

Paul Whinray

Penny Bright

Prue Stringer

Rachel Williams

Ray Jackson Indigenous Justice Association, Australia

Rebecca Broad Workers Party

Robert Jones Writer

Robert Moore

Roger Fowler RAM - Residents Action Movement

Ron Poulsen Aboriginal Rights Coalition, Sydney

Ruth Gray

Selina Lau

Sheryl Cadman Regional Secretary, National Distribution Union

Simon Clarke Philosophy Department, University of Canterbury

Simon Oosterman Organiser, National Distribution Union

Siosifa Fifita SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Te Kanawa Harris SFWU, Pernod Ricard Bottling Plant and Warehouse

Timothy Randall

Tony Gibson Delegate, Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union, Pacific Rolling Mill, Fletcher Steel Limited

Tyler Culpepper

William Bradley ***

ENDS

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