Sunday, October 17, 2004

Ahmed Zaoui: background and attacks

The Herald has a good background piece on the FIS, the political party Zaoui was a member of before he was forced to flee Algeria. It's an interesting look at the sort of chaos you get in broad-based movements in aspring democracies, where there's little agreement even on what would seem to be the fundamentals.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Star-Times has launched a stinging attack on the government's handling of the case, accusing it of "breathtaking arrogance and an amazing contempt for civil liberties". Here's a sample:

Last week the Supreme Court threw out the government's reprehensible bid to continue the ban on TVNZ's proposed interview with the Algerian. The government will never recover the damage it has done to itself over this affair. Apparently its case is so weak that it is too frightened even to let Zaoui speak. In this, it not only treats him with contempt, it also shows it does not care for fundamental democratic rights. It is telling the people of New Zealand that they will not be allowed to hear Zaoui put his case in his own words.

In other words, this is a government which spurns one of the most basic principles of justice. The behaviour of this government is profoundly offensive to anyone who cares about democracy. And if Attorney-General Margaret Wilson agrees with this policy, she should resign. Her support would be just as repellent as David Benson-Pope's outbursts. "Get on a plane," he yells at Zaoui in parliament. Zaoui's detention "is not an imprisonment", says Wilson. Zaoui is free - to return to Algeria and an uncertain future.

There's more, and it's brutal. Stories on Stuff tend to disappear after a while, so best to read it while you still can.