[Documents menu] Political and general history of Aotearoa - New Zealand
Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 15:43:35 -0700
Sender: Forum on Labor in the Global Economy <LABOR-L@YORKU.CA>
Subject: New Zealand prepares for APEC

GATT Watchdog activist launches legal action against SIS over bungled 1996 break-in

Media release for immediate use
20 October 1997

Prominent Auckland QC To Take Case; Fighting Fund Launched

The man at the centre of a botched NZ Security Intelligence Service (SIS) break-in at his Christchurch home on July 13 1996 is taking a legal case against the SIS. Aziz Choudry has engaged prominent Auckland QC, Dr Rodney Harrison to act as senior legal counsel in the case. A fighting fund, the Democratic Rights Defence Fund, is being launched to raise money to cover the costs of the legal action.

Mr Choudry says that the break-in, which took place within two weeks of new legislation (the 1996 New Zealand Security Intelligence Service Amendment Act) expanding the scope of SIS targets, confirms concerns that critics of the government's free-market policies are now fair game for the SIS. He says that the break-in puts the lie to assurances contained within the legislation and reiterated by the Prime Minister that remaining within the law is a guarantee of freedom from SIS operations and that the SIS would not be used against legitimate political dissenters.

"It is clear that such promises were made to be broken" said Mr Choudry, a Corso National Officer and spokesperson for the fair trade coalition GATT Watchdog.

"The only conceivable reasons for the break-in arose from my involvement with GATT Watchdog, which works to expose and oppose the APEC agenda and my role in organising an alternative forum critical of free trade held just prior to the APEC Trade Ministers Meeting here in Christchurch," said Mr Choudry. "This is thoroughly unacceptable".

Mr Choudry and Dr David Small (who discovered the two intruders at the scene of the break-in) made complaints to the Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security about the incident, but these were not upheld. Neither man accepts the Inspector-General's conclusions, released this June. The Inspector-General's advice implicitly acknowledged that the two men responsible for the break-in were SIS operatives. A subsequent call for an independent public enquiry into the matter on the anniversary of the break-in was endorsed by a wide range of groups, organisations and unions, but met with no response from the government.

Mr Choudry intends to sue the SIS for substantial damages for trespass and unreasonable search.

A letter of claim has been sent to the Director of Security asking him to confirm or deny that the two men involved in the break-in were indeed SIS operatives and/or were acting on behalf of the Service.

The letter complains of the civil wrong of trespass, and of unreasonable search contrary to Section 21 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990. The Democratic Rights Defence Fund has been set up to encourage people to publicly endorse the need for legal action in this case, and to raise and account for the money needed to take this action. The Fund's committee comprises Dr Jane Kelsey, Professor of Law, Auckland University; Maxine Gay, President of the New Zealand Trade Union Federation; Dr Jim Stuart, Minister of the Church of St Andrews on the Terrace, Wellington; Leigh Cookson of Corso; Murray Horton, CAFCA and Anti-Bases Campaign organiser; and Nicholas McBride of the Christchurch Community Law Centre. The fundraising target is $20,000.

"GATT Watchdog believes that human rights violations and the suppression of legitimate dissent go hand in hand with the market model of development which APEC promotes. Last year's actions set a dangerous precedent for the targetting of any New Zealand organisations, unions or individuals who exercise their democratic right of dissent and free speech against government policies in the future, especially bearing in mind the fact that New Zealand will host the major 1999 APEC meetings,. If it can happen to me - you could be next. The SIS - and their political masters - must be called to account. This legal case is one way to do that, " said Mr Choudry.

Donations for the Democratic Rights Defence Fund can be sent to PO Box 1905, Christchurch.

For further comment, please contact Aziz Choudry: (03) 3662803; or Leigh Cookson (Democratic Rights Defence Fund) ph 03 3662803 (w)

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