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APEC Opponent Claims Victory in SIS Case

GATT Watchdog and APEC Monitoring Group organiser Aziz Choudry has announced that he and the Crown have reached an out-of-court settlement of his civil claim following the illegal break-in of his home by two Security Intelligence Service agents just prior to the July 1996 APEC Trade Ministers Meeting.

The settlement involves a payment to Mr Choudry of substantial damages and towards his legal costs, and an apology.

"This is a victory, but I'm unimpressed by the calibre of the Crown's "apology" for the illegal break-in".

"The Government is really only 'sorry' that its SIS agents got caught. It has gone to great lengths to cover up its dirty tricks. It must have a lot to hide," he said.

Mr Choudry says he is pleased to have scored a rare victory over the SIS given its history of being unaccountable to either the public or the courts. He is also pleased that the case has exposed that the official SIS complaints procedure, which recent law changes leave untouched, is a complete farce.

"Any reasonable observer would agree that in the absence of any other explanation, what this case shows is that the SIS have indeed been taking action against people engaged in lawful political protest and dissent".

"The break-in occurred while I was involved with organising an alternative conference in opposition to the APEC Trade Ministers Meeting. Ironically, this settlement comes as I am part of a group organising an alternative conference and rally opposed to APEC at the time of September's APEC Leaders Summit."

"Human rights violations are synonymous with APEC meetings. The government, and especially those responsible for the huge security operation for next month's Auckland APEC summit should remember that the heavy-handed actions of state security forces against critics of APEC at the time of APEC meetings tend to haunt the governments which sanction them long after the event."

He noted that the brutal security crackdown around the November 1997 Vancouver APEC Summit was still the subject of a politically explosive inquiry into the security operations.

"My case and the questions it raises are a major source of embarrassment for the Government. I have heard from a reliable source that Don McIver, the current Director of the SIS considered resigning over this affair. No wonder the Government wants to get this matter settled prior to the APEC Leaders Summit. But if the Government thinks it can brush the issues and concerns that this case has raised in relation to the SIS, the "mantra of national security" and the rights of people to dissent under the carpet, it is very wrong."

"Senior Police officers and the LTSA were complicit in facilitating and covering up this illegal break in. They actively obstructed attempts to get to the bottom of this incident and covered the SIS's tracks. But heads won't roll because they can all hide behind a convenient shroud of "national security" How many other undetected illegal SIS break-ins have they and other government agencies taken part in?"

Mr Choudry was scathing about claims that there were checks and balances and mechanisms of oversight in place to curb potential abuses of SIS power.

"The supposed statutory checks and balances on the powers of the SIS did not work as soon as they were put to the test shortly after their 1996 revamp. The report into my complaint to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was a whitewash. And the 1999 legislative amendments have actually expanded the powers of the SIS, not reined them in."

"The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security was unwilling or unable even to admit the involvement of the SIS in his report into my complaint against the SIS on the bungled 1996 operation. I had to take legal action to get an admission from the Crown that the SIS - and that their entry was illegal."

Aziz Choudry (09) 3025390 xt 833 or (021) 217 3039

ENDS

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