Note to John Key: Zaoui was innocent.

Once John Key realized that his efforts to expand state spying powers were not meeting with the usual docile approval on the part of the public, he retreated to his usual habit of spinning alarmist tall tales (The terrorists are here! The terrorists are in Yemen but coming back!) and smearing his detractors. Some time ago it was Jon Stephenson and Nicky Hagar who got the smear treatment over their coverage of NZDF, SIS and GCSB activities in Afghanistan, with Key dismissing them as liars and conspiracy theorists. Now he has threatened the Human Rights Commission because of its opposition to the GCSB and TICS Bills and dismissed the Law Society’s objections as politically motivated.

His comments about the Law Society are revealing, because he has launched a personal attack on Law Society spokesperson Rodney Harrison QC for being part of Ahmed Zaoui’s legal defense team. Here he has outdone himself on the sniveling weasel scale, because he not only makes it appear that Harrison was somehow wrong to help Zaoui defend himself against claims that he was a terrorist, but he smears Zaoui himself in the process.

Let us be very clear: Ahmed Zaoui was never a terrorist, nor did he knowingly associate with terrorists. He was a member of a legitimate Algerian opposition movement in exile who were forced out of their homeland after a military coup that deposed the democratically elected government that they were part of. Because his political activities in exile made host governments in Europe uncomfortable (governments with close ties to the Algerian military regime), he was forced to undergo two politically motivated sham trials in France and Belgium and when that did not stop him from continuing his political work, to involuntarily globe trot in search of security for himself and his family after his residency permits were canceled.

After stints in Burkina Faso and Malaysia, and with the Algerian secret services on his tail, he made his way to New Zealand and requested political asylum. For that he was jailed, held in solitary confinement for nearly a year in a maximum security prison, spent another 14 months in a medium security prison before being granted bail, and in all was forced to undergo five years of legal wrangling before his refugee request was granted (a request that was initially approved by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority in August 2003 but opposed by the SIS). His treatment by the Clark government was abhorrent.

Let us also be clear that the terrorist claims against Zaoui were manufactured by the SIS, sometimes in amateurish fashion (such as the so-called “casing” video that detailed his travels through Southeast Asia before embarking on a plane bound for New Zealand). The director of the SIS at the time, the duplicitous ex-ambassador and self-admitted Francophile Richard Woods, orchestrated a campaign of smears and falsehoods against Zaoui so as to keep in the good graces of the French government, a project that he had begun during his posting to the New Zealand embassy in Paris (as ambassador to France and Algeria) in the mid 1990s. Wanting to look tough on terrorism post 9/11, the Clark government aided and abetted Mr. Wood’s character assassination project, and it is to its everlasting shame that it did so.

In the end, the accusations against Zaoui were thoroughly and systematically discredited by Mr. Harrison and his legal team, and the SIS was forced to rescind the security risk certificate issued against him. In September 2007 he was granted asylum and the following month his wife and four children joined him. He is now a small businessman living with his family in Auckland.

This is why John Key is behaving like a sniveling weasel. In order to garner support for his spying bills he has played on latent anti-Muslim prejudice and fears of terrorism long after the Zaoui case ended to make it appear that Zaoui was guilty of something and that Mr. Harrison was wrong to defend him.

Yet the truth is quite different: Mr. Zaoui was an innocent man wrongly accused for political and diplomatic reasons by the New Zealand authorities of crimes he never committed. Mr Harrison was one of the champions who defended Zaoui against the gross injustice perpetrated against him by the State. Both men displayed integrity and steadfastness of purpose in the face of concerted official duplicity and malice.

If nothing else, Mr. Key’s cynical revision of historical events for scare-mongering purposes, set against the backdrop of SIS dishonesty in the Zaoui case and the GCSB illegal wiretapping of Kim Dotcom, should be added reason why the GCSB and TICS Bills need to be resisted. After all, if this is how the Minister of Intelligence and Security and his agencies operate under current law, what does that say about what they could do with expanded powers?

One thing is certain. Of the three men involved in this story, one cannot be trusted to act with honesty and integrity in the face of adversity. That person is not Ahmed Zaoui or Rodney Harrison, QC.

14 thoughts on “Note to John Key: Zaoui was innocent.

  1. Well said (even if you are being mean to John on his brithday :- )

  2. No Brent, “mean” is what Key and his minions are to the less fortunate amongst us–mean in practice as well as in word.

  3. I think you might mean “Francophile”; a Francophone is just someone who speaks French.

  4. Chris Finlayson first mentioned the Rodney Harrison / Ahmed Zaoui connection in the House on Tuesday night in the GCSB debate.

  5. MIkeG: Yes, I saw that. I can only refer to my response to Brent, but with the added thought that dumb coward mean follows full cowardly mean.

  6. Nice post, Pablo. It’s so cool to see the facts of the Zaoui matter laid out with such great clarity.

    And the Urewera raid was another stain on Helen Clark’s reign.

  7. Rabids ,there is every reason we should be wary of Islamics from Africa connected to fundamentalist cells. Many New Zealanders agree with the GCSB bill, or don’t care, Snapper.
    We will vote NZNat party again, but keep on trying arrogant one

  8. Paul:

    I agree that violent extremists should be a matter of concern, whether or not they are connected to foreign extremists. Zaoui is not one of them.

    As for the rest. That National party line is tired and shallow so try to lift your game. And as I have said to you on repeated occasions, try to avoid the personal attacks. I realize that this is hard for you, but you will be the better for it.

  9. OK I do not attack you Pablo, I just said that we NZ must preserve our own good. We made a misjudgment about Zauoi, we accept that, they were dangerous days
    but it is excusable from what was going on. Now we have fatso in the country, you see Pablo you think your intellect is superior and you can put people down, do not be like this , just allow people to comment, and let it go, allow ordinary New Zealanders to your column without your intellectual discrimination

  10. from Pablo.
    “One thing is certain. Of the three men involved in this story, one cannot be trusted to act with honesty and integrity in the face of adversity. That person is not Ahmed Zaoui or Rodney Harrison, QC.”

    and then the condescending
    “try to avoid the personal attacks”
    oh dear

  11. Huck/Paul: You need to get yourself sorted because this is getting tedious. Surely there is someone in Thailand that can help you, and by that I do not mean the usual help that tourists seek.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *