Ahmed Zaoui detained in Algeria for democracy statements, lawyer says

NZ citizen Ahmed Zaoui
NZ citizen Ahmed Zaoui . . . arrested in Algeria "at gunpoint . . . by eight men in balaclavas from the special forces". Image: RNZ News File

RNZ News

The Algerian democracy advocate Ahmed Zaoui, a New Zealand citizen, has been arrested by Algerian security forces after commenting on human rights violations at a political meeting at his home.

His New Zealand lawyer Deborah Manning said Zaoui had been detained at a police station in the city of Medea since he was taken from his home at about 5.30pm on Tuesday (Algerian time).

“He was arrested at gunpoint . . . by eight men in balaclavas from the special forces and the neighbourhood was surrounded, so it was a significant operation, and he’s been taken for interrogation,” she said.

“It’s a precarious situation for anyone taken under these circumstances.”

He had not yet been charged with anything, she said.

Zaoui, who was recognised as a refugee in New Zealand 20 years ago after a protracted legal battle, entered Algeria on a New Zealand passport.

“Mr Zaoui has two homes now — he has family in Algeria and New Zealand and he was wanting to find a way to live in both worlds.

‘Constant communication’
“He returned to Algeria to be with family in recent years as the political situation appeared to be settling. He was planning to return to New Zealand later this year.”

Manning remained in “constant communication” with Zaoui’s family in Algeria.

The family was “very concerned” and was working with New Zealand consular affairs.

There was no New Zealand consulate in Algeria but Manning said she was in touch with “the relevant authorities”.

Selwyn Manning’s documentary on the Ahmed Zaoui case.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade told RNZ it was aware of reports of a New Zealander detained in Algeria but could not provide further information due to “privacy reasons”.

According to Amnesty International, about 300 people have been arrested in Algeria on charges related to freedom of speech since a law change in April cracking down on media freedom.

Zaoui, a former theology professor, stood as a candidate for the Islamic Salvation Front in Algeria’s first general election in 1991.

However, the government cancelled the election and banned his party when it appeared it was on track to win the election, forcing Zaoui and others to flee the country.

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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