Zaoui Case: Hundreds Turn Up In Rain To Protest Two Years Imprisonment
By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor
Around 300 people today gathered at a public rally outside the Auckland Central Remand Prison (ACRP) to protest against New Zealand having detained Ahmed Zaoui for two years without charge or trial.
The rally was organised by Global Peace and Justice Auckland (GPJA).
Ahmed Zaoui’s lawyer Deborah Manning told the rally that on Thursday December 9 New Zealanders would find out whether the Supreme Court will release him on bail. She added that Mr Zaoui is “hopeful” that he will be released.
The Supreme Court last month ruled it has jurisdiction to hear a bail application from Ahmed Zaoui. It requested that the Crown present it with new information to be considered at Thursday’s bail hearing. The Crown has failed to meet the Supreme Court’s deadline.
Ahmad Esau (who created the cover artwork depicted on the book I Almost Forgot About The Moon – The Disinformation Campaign Against Ahmed Zaoui), read out a message from Ahmed Zaoui expressing hope and excitement that he may be able to experience freedom soon.
Other speakers included former Race Relations Commissioner Gregory Fortuin (who said he had never dreamed a person would be detained in New Zealand without criminal charge or disclosure), Green MP Keith Locke, Progressive Party MP Matt Robson, and Howard League For Penal Reform spokesperson Peter Williams QC, who all called for Mr Zaoui’s immediate release and for the government to overturn a security risk certificate that had been issued against him.
Twenty four balloons were set free – one balloon symbolised each fortnight that Ahmed Zaoui has been imprisoned in New Zealand.
Global Peace and Justice Auckland’s Mike Treen MC-ed the public rally.
Singer Mahinarangi Tocker earlier heralded the rally to sing Happy Birthday marking Ahmed Zaoui’s 44th birthday.
Children came forward to collect Pohutukawa trees to be planted in Ahmed Zaoui’s honour in regions throughout New Zealand.
A news-diary of world and national news items displayed a haunting reminder of how long New Zealand has held Ahmed Zaoui in prison.
Mt Eden Prison and Auckland Central Remand provides journalist Olivia Kember a bleak and lonely backdrop for an item on how New Zealand has imprisoned Ahmed Zaoui for two years without trial or explanation.
On arrival he sought asylum citing the need for refuge from his home nation Algeria. A military government in Algeria had convicted him to death in absentia.
Mr Zaoui is an elected Algerian MP and a leader of the FIS. He was forced to leave Algeria in 1992 after a military coup cancelled democratic elections there. Once the military took power it terrorised, victimised, detained and killed opposition leaders and members, particularly those subscribing to the democratically elected FIS party.
Later, a militant Algerian political group, the GIA, also issued a death notice against Mr Zaoui.
On arriving in New Zealand, Mr Zaoui was detained pending an investigation into his claims. New Zealand incorrectly believed Mr Zaoui to be a member of the GIA. It later discovered that he was not.
However, in March 2003 the New Zealand Security Intelligence Service issued a security risk certificate against Mr Zaoui and refused under New Zealand law to disclose detail of why it deemed Mr Zaoui a risk to New Zealand’s national interests.
On August 1 2003, the Refugee Status Appeals Authority declared Mr Zaoui a legal refugee and made public a report detailing its investigation into Mr Zaoui’s case.
Mr Zaoui and his lawyers have sought a review of the SIS’s security risk certificate – The Crown has applied to the Supreme Court seeking to ban human rights aspects from being considered during the review process. It insists that Mr Zaoui’s human rights ought to be considered by the Minister of Immigration should the risk certificate be upheld.