A dirty lit­tle deal has been forged

Herald on Sunday - - Editorial - FRAN O’SUL­LI­VAN

WHEN the chips were down, Ahmed Zaoui sang like a bird to buy his free­dom in New Zealand. Zaoui’s de­ci­sion to of­fer new in­for­ma­tion that could be prej­u­di­cial to him — pre­sum­ably about the so-called free­dom-fight­ing net­works he be­longed to — is a ma­jor fac­tor be­hind why New Zealand’s spooks have lifted the se­cu­rity risk cer­tifi­cate against him.

The Al­ge­rian has, in ef­fect, been pub­licly turned into an intelligen­ce as­set on tap for the Se­cu­rity Intelligen­ce Ser­vice (SIS) and its off­shore coun­ter­parts like the CIA through an obli­ga­tion to seek per­mis­sion from the SIS be­fore he meets with any con­tacts from a list of as­so­ciates whose names were blacked out in the pub­lic ver­sion of the deal Zaoui swore on the Ko­ran with SIS di­rec­tor War­ren Tucker.

If any of his as­so­ciates get in touch with Zaoui, he has to tell the SIS the ex­act na­ture of such con­tacts, whether they are so­cial or po­lit­i­cal and whether they might prompt any se­cu­rity con­cerns. He also has to fess up if other intelligen­ce agen­cies seek to make con­tact with him over his knowl­edge of in­ter­na­tional ter­ror­ist net­works.

Tucker’s de­ci­sion to make a deal with Zaoui is a prag­matic one. It will no doubt have been en­dorsed by Prime Min­is­ter He­len Clark who is also the SIS Min­is­ter, even though Clark main­tains she has stood aside from Tucker’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing process.

Nei­ther party would have wanted the fullscale ri­ots that would have in­curred if Zaoui — who has been ac­corded mar­tyr sta­tus by some me­dia — was forcibly de­ported from New Zealand.

Nei­ther would they have wanted the SIS to be brought into pub­lic dis­re­pute if SIS In­spec­tor-Gen­eral Paul Nea­zor’s up­com­ing re­port cast doubt over the intelligen­ce ser­vices pro­cesses.

Nor would they have wanted the Gov­ern­ment — and the SIS — to be chal­lenged in the Supreme Court with its de­cid­edly lib­eral bent. The up­shot is that a rather dirty lit­tle deal has been forged.

Zaoui’s celebrity sta­tus, rather like the furore over the un­for­tu­nate David Bain, has stymied ra­tio­nal de­bate over the mer­its of his claim to refugee sta­tus.

Rather un­for­tu­nately he has been canon­ised in his own life­time by the Labour Party’s rank-and-file, many of whom are still buried in the peacenik era. Put that to one side.

The im­por­tant take­out from Tucker’s state­ment is his con­fir­ma­tion that Zaoui was clearly a risk to the se­cu­rity of New Zealand when he ar­rived here five years ago. The SIS di­rec­tor cites Zaoui’s con­vic­tions in France and Bel­gium for par­tic­i­pat­ing in and lead­ing ter­ror­ist net­works.

He was de­ported from Switzer­land for is­su­ing state­ments sup­port­ing vi­o­lence in Al­ge­ria and at­tract­ing ex­trem­ists and was ex­cluded from en­ter­ing Bri­tain.

What is ex­tra­or­di­nary is Tucker’s ad­mis­sion that af­ter Zaoui’s ar­rival here seek­ing refugee sta­tus, he con­tin­ued to have on­go­ing as­so­ci­a­tions with in­di­vid­u­als who had been in­volved with ter­ror­ist net­works. This does not amount to a full-scale clear­ance of Zaoui’s name — far from it.

The fact is that Zaoui en­tered this coun­try il­le­gally us­ing a bo­gus South African pass­port that he flushed down the air­plane toi­let be­fore seek­ing refugee sta­tus on ar­rival at Auck­land Air­port.

It’s never been sat­is­fac­to­rily ex­plained why he had to leave his fam­ily — a wife and four boys — be­hind in Malaysia to seek a new life in New Zealand. Malaysia, a Mus­lim coun­try, has not kicked out the Zaoui fam­ily in the five years since Ahmed Zaoui has been in New Zealand. What is clear is that the Al­ge­rian has man­aged to jump the im­mi­gra­tion queue ahead of other po­ten­tial im­mi­grants rather than fol­low the ap­pro­pri­ate pro­cesses.

Tucker notes the SIS has also re­ceived clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion that sug­gests it is Zaoui’s as­so­ciates, rather than him­self, that have been ac­tively in­volved in pro­vid­ing sup­port to ter­ror­ism in Al­ge­ria. He says in the mean­time Al­ge­ria has changed.

Most of those who were in­volved in ter­ror­ism in Al­ge­ria have taken ad­van­tage of an amnesty and have stopped fight­ing. The groups with which Zaoui and his col­leagues were as­so­ci­ated are no longer func­tion­ing.

In­deed, this also ap­plied to Zaoui’s po­lit­i­cal party, the FIS. If this is the case why can’t Zaoui sim­ply go back to Al­ge­ria and ap­ply for amnesty him­self? One an­swer to that might be the fact that Zaoui’s SIS dis­clo­sures have made the av­enue im­pos­si­ble in the short term. But an­other an­swer may be that he is on an ex­cep­tion­ally good wicket in New Zealand through con­ning his way into this de­cid­edly trust­ing coun­try.

fran.osul­li­van@xtra.co.nz

PIC­TURE / GLENN JEF­FREY

FREE AT LAST: Did Ahmed Zaoui sim­ply jump the im­mi­gra­tion queue?

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