SIS willing to intimidate vulnerable refugees to get dirt on Zaoui

The Security Intelligence Service is using underhand tactics to get dirt on Algerian refugee Ahmed Zaoui, the Green Party says.

The Sunday Star-Times today exposed an SIS campaign to extract damaging information on Mr Zaoui from his friends in the Algerian refugee community in Auckland.

“The SIS case against Mr Zaoui must be weak if they have to go trawling among his friends to get dirt on him,” said Keith Locke, the Greens’ Human Rights spokesperson.

“It seems the SIS is willing to do anything, including intimidate vulnerable refugees and trample on proper interviewing process, in a desperate effort to find some evidence against Mr Zaoui.”

Mr Locke said the SIS campaign in the Algerian refugee community was deeply disturbing.

“Agents have been arriving unannounced on doorsteps and interrogating fearful refugees without any translators or lawyers present. The Green Party will be complaining to the Prime Minister about these underhand SIS tactics, and asking for a set of protocols to be established for SIS questioning of refugees.

“These protocols should require the SIS to make advance appointments, allow translators and lawyers to be present, and to inform refugees that they are not required to answer questions about other people. This is particularly important in that refugees will often feel under pressure to answer because they have residency or citizenship applications in the pipeline.”

The SIS campaign against Mr Zaoui was now scaring members of the Algerian refugee community, Mr Locke said.

“These refugees know that when a secret agent turns up in their home country, it often means someone is going to be hauled off to prison. One SIS agent reinforced such fears by translating the ‘Security Intelligence Service’ as ‘mukhabarat’, the name for the hated security police in Algeria.

“These latest moves could also create legal problems in the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security’s assessment of the Security Risk Certificate applying to Mr Zaoui. That certificate was based on SIS information against Mr Zaoui in March 2003.

“It would be odd if the Inspector-General now has to consider a whole new SIS case constructed out of conversations, conducted in English rather than Arabic, with Mr Zaoui’s Algerian friends. From the reported line of questioning, it seems the SIS is still trying to discredit Mr Zaoui’s party, the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), which they should know by now is an open and above board party campaigning for democracy in Algeria.”