Friday, October 22, 2004

Zaoui and Zundel: something in common?

I've not blogged on the legal mess that is the Zaoui case before because all that have happened since I started blogging are pointless court cases. But now I have something exciting to report.

Ahmed Zaoui is a former Algerian MP that belonged to the FIS, the Islamic Salvation Front. When the Algerian Civil War broke out, Zaoui made his way to Belgium where he became unwisely involved with the GIA, the Armed Islamic Group. He was convicted in Belgium of crimes related to supporting members of the GIA in their murderous terror campaign in France. He escaped from house arrest in Belgium and ended up detained in Switzerland with access denied to a phone, fax machine or computer. He appealed against these communication restrictions to the European Court of Human Rights but was abruptly turned down. The Swiss arranged for Zaoui to go into exile in Burkina Faso. While he lived in Burkina Faso, the French courts had convicted in absentia of crimes similar to those that he was already convicted for in Belgium. Ahmed then left Burkina Faso and spent three years in Malaysia. From there, he went to Vietnam whereupon he boarded a flight here and applied for refugee status.

Because of Ahemd's criminal convictions in both France and Belgium, he would not normally be eligible for refugee status. However when he appealed his denial of refugee status to the RSAA (the Refugee Status Appeal Authority), Ahmed had become a cause célèbre by the Greens and Civil Liberty Groups. In seeking support for his status, they submitted evidence that purported to show that Ahmed's convictions were a sham by corrupt governments that were seeking to punish moderate members of the FIS. This evidence was little more than a libel which made a big deal about unusual features of Zaoui's trials. The RSAA accepted these libels at face value because they did not realize that the alleged unusual features were in fact standard court procedure on the continent. Hence Ahmed's appeal was allowed and he became a refugee. The government could have applied for a judicial review of the RSAA's decision but decided against it because judging by what Paul Swain has said in the House, the review can only consider the original evidence placed before it and nothing else.

However Ahmed Zaoui was not released because the SIS had issued a security risk certificate, which declares that he is a threat to the national security of New Zealand. It did this on the basis of information given to it by other unnamed security services but an educated guess on their identity would be the French, the Belgians and the Swiss. If the Inspector General of the SIS (a retired high court judge) upholds the certificate then Zaoui can be deported. Practically every sane poltician believes that Zaoui should be "outski" (to use Laurie Grieg's words) because of his criminal convictions. Ahmed now waits in prison while legal wrangling continues (the pointless court cases that I mentioned before) about the terms and references of the security risk assessment. The Greens, Amnesty International and others are outraged because of the police state imagery of a person confined without a trial to be deported on the basis of evidence that he will never see. The fact that Zaoui is only detained because he choses to remain here is rarely mentioned; if he expressed the wish to go to Vietnam tomorrow, the government would pull out all the stops to ensure that he was on the next plane there.

However a similar case is occuring in Canada. Ernst Zundël has been in prison for eighteen months while the Canadian Government goes through the process of expelling him to Germany. The procedure that the Canadians are using? The Security Certificate! The procedure is slightly different but both Ernst Zundel and Ahmed Zaoui are being kept in prison on the grounds that they are national security risks on the basis of evidence they will never see. So why haven't people made a fuss about Ernst Zundel here and denounced Canada as a Fascist Police State? Is it because he's a Holocaust Denier? Surely what's good for the Zundël is good for the Zaoui?

Some might object that the Algerian government has sentenced Zaoui to death in absentia. However that sentence was passed before the 1999 amnesty which some sixty thousand blood-stained terrorists (about 85% of the strength of the GIA at the time) took up. So if Ahmed Zaoui asked nicely, he could get the death sentence waived and return home.