Minister should withdraw certificate against Zaoui

Given the most recent Security Intelligence Service failures, the Minister of Immigration David Cunliffe should now withdraw the risk security certificate issued over three years ago against Ahmed Zaoui, the Green Party Intelligence Services Spokesperson Keith Locke says.

Mr Locke was speaking after the indefinite postponement of the hearings by the SIS Inspector-General Paul Neazor into the evidence against Mr Zaoui.

“It would be just too cruel to keep Mr Zaoui in limbo for yet another year, separated from his family. The August 7 hearings had been a deadline sought by the SIS and the Inspector-General. The Zaoui defence team were ready to go, and had booked flights for expert witnesses from around the world.

“The SIS had ample time to prepare. The High Court told them in December 2003 to prepare a summary of allegations. The Court of Appeal reminded them in October 2004. Yet now, on the eve of the review, they have failed to provide a coherent and complete summary of their allegations. It now transpires that some 30 of the 55 files of SIS evidence so far, do not even mention Mr Zaoui by name.

“The failures have occurred on three levels. For the SIS, this has been the latest in a series of bungles.The Inspector-General must take some responsibility for the SIS being left to slow the process down. The Prime Minister must also share some blame for inadequately resourcing the Inspector-General, so that he can get through the work comprehensively, and on time. In this year’s Budget, the Government cut the funding for the I nspector-General’s office.

“In correspondence earlier this year with Mr Neazor, I was left with grave doubts as to whether key decisions had yet been made on procedures for the review,” Mr Locke says.

“In a letter on 18 May for instance, Mr Neazor seemed to envisage using the SIS Director as a source of expertise in evaluating the evidence, and credibility of witnesses: ‘ The Director I think, ‘Neazor wrote ‘may well be a source of information for me in respect of what people may have said in the hearing.’ This hardly seems the ‘arm’s length relationship’ from the Director urged by the High Court. The question of whether Mr Neazor has any independent source of advice and analysis of the security evidence remains an unknown.

“Essentially, the SIS have failed to front up to the deadline. The Minister should end this tragic farce and allow Mr Zaoui – who has been living quietly in the community for 18 months – to be re-united with his family.”