The government has held Zaoui in solitary confinement at the maximum security prison at Paremoremo under terrorism charges since his arrival on December 4 of last year. He is now facing deportation pending the decision of Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel, who under the law has powers to order the deportation of someone deemed a national security threat.
Zaoui was elected to Algerias parliament in 1991 as a member of the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS) before the Algerian military staged a coup and outlawed the FIS. New Zealand officials seek to tie him to the Islamic Armed Group (GIA), an organization that split from the armed wing of the FIS, and to brand him a terrorist.
The Security Intelligence Service (SIS), the secret police, issued a Security Risk Certificate against Zaoui last March based on alleged evidence linking Zaoui to terrorism, which he and his attorneys have not been allowed to see. This was the first use of the Certificate, which allows detention and deportation of immigrants based on secret evidence, since it was approved as part of measures adopted by Parliament in 1999 that strengthen the powers of the immigration police.
On August 4 a board of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority (RSAA), after a review of 5,000 pages of released materials, cleared Zaoui of the accusations and granted him status to stay in the country. Dalziel has defended the continued detention, however, claiming the appeals authority was not given classified information. In the meantime she has asked a retired judge to review these materials before deciding whether to rely on them alone to order Zaouis deportation.
Meanwhile, widespread media publicity has put a spotlight on the governments violations of Zaouis rights.
The RSAA ruling granting him refugee status says that on his arrival at the airport last December, Zaoui was asked by a customs official whether he belonged to the GIA. The official claimed he heard Zaoui answer yes, but Zaoui says he replied efeeyesFIS, the acronym for his political party.
In July immigration officials admitted the existence of an internal memorandum, written just days after Zaoui was arrested, stating that everyone had agreed to lie in unison about his detention.
Defenders of Zaoui have organized public vigils in Auckland demanding his release. A large billboard went up at a visible spot in Wellington August 6 that said in large letters: AHMED ZAOUI IS A THREAT. Yeah right.
In an attempt to win some legitimacy for the Security Certificates, former prime minister David Lange said August 5 that he had gained appreciation for the secrecy of the intelligence system during his term. Classified information could be the most ghastly, deficient hearsay, utterly prejudicial…but that is where you have the overlay of the judgment of the director general [of security] and the input of the [immigration] minister so there are checks and balances along the way, he intoned.
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