September 20, 2003
Police are under attack for relying on the cult website of a convicted fraudster which links asylum seeker Ahmed Zaoui with a terrorist group.
The Security Intelligence Service has already come under fire for using unsubstantiated internet reports to gather information about the Algerian.
Zaoui has been cleared of any terrorist links by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority but has been in solitary confinement in Auckland Prison at Paremoremo for 10 months and is now awaiting the outcome of a review of a Security Risk Certificate issued on the basis of secret SIS information.
He was sent to solitary at the prison after the police's national bureau of criminal intelligence carried out a confidential threat assessment when Zaoui arrived in early December.
The assessment, dated December 11, said there was a political risk that Zaoui would try to gain some support by using the media and ordered that a total media blanket already in place in relation to him should continue.
The assessment also says he was considered to be a senior member of the GIA, a terrorist group originating from Algeria.
It says this group historically had been involved in several violent acts, then says in brackets to refer to the website of larouchepub.com.
The website is that of an elderly failed American presidential candidate, Lyndon LaRouche, who is also a convicted fraudster who has stood for President in elections since 1976.
LaRouche was sent to prison after being convicted in the late 1980s of swindling elderly people for campaign money and tax evasion.
Time magazine reports he has accused Queen Elizabeth 2 of drug trafficking and blamed the International Monetary Fund for creating and spreading the Aids virus.
One of Zaoui's lawyers, Deborah Manning, said people were welcome to visit the website and make up their own minds about its credibility.
"The threat assessment from the New Zealand Police has about as much credibility as the SIS information which was strongly criticised by the RSAA in its decision."
The police say the assessment was given to the Department of Corrections as it had responsibility for Zaoui's custody on immigration related matters following a court appearance.
Given that his Security Risk certificate was being reviewed, police said they could not comment further.
Ced Simpson, Amnesty International's New Zealand executive director, said basing information on a website like LaRouche was hardly reliable.
"If that's where the police derive information about threats to security then that's very disturbing."
He was also disturbed that police appeared to have tried to obstruct an asylum seeker's right to gain whatever support he could.
Green MP Keith Locke said he was astounded the only source referred to was the LaRouche cult website.
Information on that site says Ahmed Zaoui was identified by Algerian press as the GIA chief in Belgium.
Press reports originating from Algeria have been discredited by the appeals authority decision and international experts as propaganda for the Algerian military regime which banned Zaoui's own party after it was sweeping to power in the country's first democratic elections.
It placed a death threat on Zaoui and other leaders and a decade of bloodshed ensued in Algeria.
Mr Locke said the LaRouche cult was a "weird world conspiracy cult" linking American political figures to radical terrorists.
"It shows how weak the Government's case has been right from the start. I think the police were doing the same sort of amateur detective work on the internet that the Immigration Service's Refugee Status Branch was (which turned Zaoui's original refugee application down) and it appears the SIS was."
The assessment came out around the time Immigration Service spokesman Ian Smith wrote the controversial "lying in unison" note on a memo after Zaoui's detention.
Smith wrote he had been let down badly and that "everyone had agreed to lie in unison but all the others caved in and I was the only one left singing the original song."
Mr Locke said the police assessment showed the police and Immigration Service were working together to hide from the public the fact Zaoui had been arrested and the issues involved.
"It doesn't prove that they agreed to lie but it does indicate that they agreed to jointly stop the media and the public from knowing what was happening."