The predicament of New Zealander, Ahmed Zaoui intensifies as Algerian authorities press charges of “subversion”, a section of the law that could result in severe penalties, ranging from a multi-decade prison sentence to capital punishment. Unknown is the timeline for his impending trial, as Zaoui is held in Koléa Prison, with family-allowed visits merely limited to 15 minutes fortnightly, reveals his advocate Deborah Manning.
Zaoui’s arrest was prompted by a document discovery, a self-declaration vowing allegiance to “the path of peaceful resolution” aimed at altering the state of the nation. This recent development in Zaoui’s ongoing saga resurfaces 21 years after finding asylum in New Zealand, where, following his arrival, he was imprisoned under the first-ever NZSIS security risk certification. Manning played a crucial role in Zaoui’s freedom after a prolonged campaign and cleared him of any security threats.
Over the ensuing years, Zaoui established a new life in New Zealand, raising four children alongside his wife, Leila. He felt Algeria’s volatile political landscape had stabilized enough to permit his visit back to his motherland. Before the detainment, Zaoui had planned to return to New Zealand, living between both countries, states Manning.
Zaoui – an erstwhile elected Algerian MP and now a citizen of New Zealand – had been shifted into a notoriously overcrowded and harsh penal facility, with escalated worries about his diabetic condition’s management. Manning implored the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, seeking an “urgent appeal” to release Zaoui, highlighting political motivations and health issues.
Further cases of peaceful assembly suppression in Algeria, leading to numerous imprisonments, shed light on Zaoui’s unexpected arrest. Manning describes this as “a shock to all”. Accused of “subversion” under the penal code permitting a maximum sentence of 20 years or death in dire cases, Zaoui’s charge has been met with substantial international human rights concerns.
Zaoui’s arrest evoked robust support from New Zealand, with the ultimate objective being his release and return to New Zealand where his family resides. The Islamic Salvation Front drafted the communiqué leading to Zaoui’s arrest. It drew attention to societal divisions, poverty, alienation from the nation, and a dysfunctional state, while voicing commitment to peace and unity.
The tragic plight of Ahmed Zaoui demonstrates the still persistent struggle for democratic reform in parts of the world like Algeria, despite the passage of time. From the shores of New Zealand to the deserts of Algeria, his journey is a testament to the enduring call for equality, justice and freedom. In times like these, we must remember that, while the world may seem divided, shared human values can act as a powerful agent for change.
Source: West Island