Thursday 24 March 2016

Ko Haapu arrves in NZafter months in Australian detention

If you think Australia and New Zealand are democracies you'd better think again.

This Afghanistan war veteran has been held in solitary confinement in a high-security prison in Western Australia despite never having committed a crime or being charged for one other than being a member of a motorcycle club.

He was assaulted by guards and constantly provoked and,had he not agreed to return to New Zealand would have faced indefinite detention.

Listen to his interview with John Campbell of Radio New Zealand.

Kiwi soldier held in high security Australian prison returns home

Kiwi soldier detained in high security Australian prison despite committing no crime

Former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu in Christchurch in 2011 as part of the earthquake recovery operation. Photo / SNPA
11 November, 2015

A Kiwi soldier has been held in solitary confinement in a high-security prison across the Tasman - despite not committing a crime.
Former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu, known as Ko, had his visa revoked on the grounds he was a member of a motorcycle club.
A law change in Australia means foreign-born nationals can have their visas revoked by the Minister of Immigration on character grounds.
Mr Haapu's lawyer Michael Pena-Rees, based in Melbourne, said he had visited his client last week in a high-security prison in Perth, and found his client was being confined on his own for four days.
"When I saw him I managed to get him out of solitary... I got him in a cell with other people, so he has company," Mr Pena-Rees said.
"Once the Governor knew who he was, he was shocked."
Mr Haapu served in the Defence Force for a number of years from 2008, Mr Pena-Rees said.
In 2010 he served in Afghanistan as a gunner and was deployed to four serious incidents where New Zealand soldiers were under attack. One of those incidents included an attack on troops that resulted in the death of Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell.
Former Lance Corporal Ngati Kanohi Te Eke Haapu is currently in a maximum security prison. Photo / Supplied
Mr Pena-Rees said Mr Haapu was "deeply affected" by this incident because he personally knew Mr O'Donnell and was tasked to convey the man's body from the attack area.
Mr Haapu has been involved with the Rebels motorcycle club in Perth, where he has worked in scaffolding in a mine. He has a long-term girlfriend in Australia, whose three-year-old son sees him as a father-figure, Mr Penas-Rees said.
"For Ko to be a risk to national security because of his connection to an outlaw motorcycle club is an abhorrent and ill-conceived decision in light of the fact that Ko is a decorated ex-soldier, who as part of the ANZAC spirit, served overseas for the same reasons as Australia and its soldiers," Mr Penas-Rees said.
Mr Haapu had been deemed a risk to national security, Mr Penas-Rees said and officers produced tasers upon his arrest.
"It is extraordinary that the Minister did not have the background information for Ko when applying his discretionary decision. It should be commended to any person in authority that Ko be released immediately back into the community pending his judicial review of the Ministers decision," Mr Penas-Rees said.
Maori Party co-leader Marama Fox told media yesterday she was contacted by Mr Rutene's family who told her he had served for New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan.
"He committed no crime in Australia, he committed no crime in New Zealand," she said.
"He is barely a member of the Rebels motorcycle gang, he is a decorated serviceman and he is being held in a detention centre.
"The Prime Minister has got it wrong and needs to do more."
Labour corrections spokesman Kelvin Davis said a number of Kiwis in Australian detention centres were upset of "being tarred with the same brush" as rapists or murderers.
The Australian media has targeted Kiwi criminals and gang members and urged the Australian Government to send them back to New Zealand.
He said detaining the former Lance Corporal was an example of the "politics of fear".
"It's pretty damn s*** to be honest. It's basically saying you look scary, so we're going to lock you up," he said.
"I don't really know his background at all so I don't want to comment on the specifics. I don't know him so I'm not qualified to talk."
Mr Davis said a number of the men being kept at the Christmas Island detention centre - some of whom had committed minor offences - were upset at being thought of as rapists or murders.
"In the meetings I had with them I said 'I want to know, are you an axe murderer or a rapist or anything' and they said 'No, that's the thing we're all being told we're murderers and rapists'. They were upset about it too.
"I got another Facebook yesterday from the father of another one of the guys on Christmas Island...He said my son is not a murderer or rapist, and he's just so upset that he's being tarred with the same brush."
Melbourne lawyer Michael Pena-Rees told Radio New Zealand last week Mr Rutene had been employed as a mine worker in Australia for the last four years, and has a girlfriend and a one-year-old son.
Mr Pena-Rees said the Australian Immigration Minister was using the character grounds clause to deport people such as Mr Rutene.
Radio New Zealand reported he was arrested on November 2.

'We don't like this policy'

Mr Key has come under pressure over Australia's detention of New Zealand citizens. Australian laws introduced last year to crack down on foreign-born criminals gives Australia's Immigration Minister Peter Dutton the power to deport anyone with a 12-month sentence who didn't have Australian citizenship, no matter how long they had lived in the country.
Mr Key said this morning that his Government was not supportive of Australia sending New Zealanders to Christmas Island: "We don't like this policy. The whole way through we've said we don't like New Zealanders being sent there. We don't like what's happening.
"My point is simply this if you are someone being sent to Christmas Island you don't need to go there. You can come back to New Zealand and you can come back in a few days, if you have no issues, or potentially a few weeks. So people are electing to stay there."
He denied that Kiwis had held for up to 20 weeks. "It's a couple of weeks and here's the reason why it could take a couple of weeks. It's the seriousness of the people that we're dealing with. Firstly, they may not have a passport because it may have been cancelled a while ago. Secondly, they may have mental health issues or a history of violence, we can't put them on a commercial plane.
"I actually have a responsibility to the New Zealanders they are coming home to, to make sure sure that they are safe. And that means I've got to put protection around these people, make sure there's supervision around them."
He added that he did not have the breakdown of who was on Christmas Island.
"We don't have the breakdown ... we have asked for that information and they haven't given it to us by New Zealanders on Christmas Island. When we spoke to [Australian Prime Minister] Malcolm Turnbull about the issue, he said to us, 'The people who are going to Christmas Island are people that have either caused issues in other detention centres or alternatively are serious.'"
He added: "In our view, none of them should be on Christmas Island. But that's the point they don't have to be on it."

Kiwis facing deportation: By the numbers

High tension

Opposition leader Andrew Little is preparing to do what he says the Government has failed to by heading to Canberra in person and pleading expatriate New Zealanders' case at the heart of Australia's Government.
Amid high tension in Parliament yesterday over Labour's advocacy for deportees, Mr Little confirmed he would appear before an Australian select committee in two weeks' time to lobby for expats' rights.
In a rare move, Mr Little will urge Australian MPs in person to address discrimination against Kiwis who live and pay tax in Australia but receive little state support.
"Most of the Australian backbenchers are stunned to hear of New Zealanders' treatment," he told the Herald. "That's why we made the judgment to get in front of the select committee formally and lay it on the table."
The main focus of Labour's submission will be on unfair treatment of New Zealanders across the Tasman.
But Mr Little said his submission would also be coloured by recent events involving New Zealanders at Australian detention centres.
"It wasn't our intention to focus on the detention issue but it may well be that it's difficult to avoid that," he said.
The issue exploded in Parliament yesterday in an extraordinary showdown.
Mr Davis confronted the Prime Minister on his way into the House, calling him "gutless" over his inaction on New Zealanders' treatment at the Christmas Island detention centre.
Mr Key, apparently rattled, launched a furious attack on Labour once inside the House. He accused Mr Davis and his party of supporting rapists, child molesters and murderers instead of New Zealanders who needed protecting.
The comment was met with uproar by the Opposition. One Labour MP was kicked out and others staged a walk-out at the "deeply offensive" outburst.
Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said Mr Key had "lost the plot".
The Prime Minister's office later released figures which showed that out of 585 New Zealanders facing deportation, 34 had been convicted of child sex offences, 22 convicted of murder, and 16 convicted for rape or sex offences.
Justice Minister Amy Adams said Mr Dutton had assured her yesterday that New Zealand detainees who elected to return home could do so within days or weeks, not months.
Mr Dutton also told her that their appeals against deportation would not be prejudiced if they returned to New Zealand, and that Australia would pay for their travel.

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