Algerian under a death sentence fights deportation
Bt Robert Fisk
Independent" -- -- Ahmed Zaoui, Algerian cleric and
university professor, member of the Algerian Front Islamique du
Salut (FIS), sits back opposite a cluster of statues of the Virgin,
a painting of Christ's crucifixion and three Catholic priests. In St
Benedict's Dominican Priory in Auckland, deportation hangs heavily
over a man who has been condemned to death in absentia in his own
country and merits a clutch of doubtful convictions in Europe, as
well as an unpleasant and largely secret document from New Zealand's
security services who are trying to over-rule the local refugee
authorities' decision that he can remain in the country.
"I am not a cynic - I am an optimist,'' Mr Zaoui says as his New
Zealand lawyer, Deborah Manning, produces sheaf after sheaf of
documents recording her client's odyssey through Morocco, France,
Belgium, Switzerland, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Malaysia, Thailand,
Vietnam, South Korea and - eventually - New Zealand. "I enjoy being
here among these Christian people. I have talked about Islam in the
church services. I talk to university students in Auckland. I have
spent much time comparing the Koran and the Bible to find those
things which they both share.''
Time has certainly been on his hands. In all, Mr Zaoui spent two
years in New Zealand prisons - 10 months in solitary - without
Pouring sweet tea for his guests, he does not look like the
potential "terrorist" that New Zealand's under-staffed Security
Intelligence Service claims him to be. In Auckland, the man from the
FIS- whose election victory was cancelled by the Algerian military
in 1992 - has published an Algerian cookery book and a selection of
poems about his 10 months of imprisonment.
Mr Zaoui is also a very unlucky man. He used false passports to
escape from Algeria and moved through France and Belgium, and among
the many fellow countrymen he spoke to as a European representative
of the FIS were members of the far more disturbing - and violent -
Islamic Armed Group (GIA) responsible, along with the Algerian Army,
for a vast series of massacres which left at least 150,000 dead. Mr
Zaoui's father, himself a prominent imam, was imprisoned in an
Algerian desert camp for five months while his son was on the run.
Keith Locke, one of New Zealand's Green MPs, said: "New Zealand
never had a 'terrorist' on its shores, but it wants to show the
world that it knows what to do when it finds one,'' he says. "So
Ahmed arrived here to find a security service that wanted to prove
its worth in the eyes of the Americans. Now we've found our very own
'terrorist', but it's obviously absurd.''
More than absurd. So keen were New Zealand's secret policemen to
turf Ahmed Zaoui out of the country that they persuaded their own
Foreign Affairs Ministry to get their diplomats in Paris, Brussels
and Berne to pester French, Belgian and Swiss officials for
statements condemning the findings of New Zealand's own refugee
One of this country's parties, New Zealand First, this week demanded
Mr Zaoui's expulsion now that the Algerian government has declared
an amnesty. "The amnesty is a farce,'' Mr Zaoui says. "It is
intended to protect the security forces who took part in torture and
killings from prosecution. If I returned to Algeria now, the moment
I spoke publicly about freedom, I would be locked up.''
Mr Zaoui sees the rise of "Islamism" as a natural event in Middle
East history. "I think the post-modern colonial state can't absorb
the change in the Arab world. The governments made many mistakes -
corruption, no freedom, intellectual failure. No force could
challenge these governments except that of the Islamists. They have
an ideology and are more sincere than the governments. Our
governments failed to organise their society,'' he says.
Mr Zaoui insists he believes in democracy and that the FIS would
have continued to hold elections, had they been allowed to take
power in 1992. But for now, all this remains a dream.
© 2006 Independent News and Media Limited
Click below to read or post comment's on this article
(In accordance with Title 17
U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to
those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the
included information for research and educational purposes.
Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the
originator of this article nor is Information ClearingHouse
endorsed or sponsored by the originator.)