The New Zealand opposition has called for US whistleblower Chelsea Manning to be banned from visiting the country to give a series of talks in September.
Manning was released from prison in May 2017 after being sentenced in 2013 in violation of the US Espionage Act for disclosing classified government documents to WikiLeaks.
She requires a special direction visa to visit New Zealand, and is subject to character provisions in section 15 of the Immigration Act 2009.
Opposition immigration spokesperson Michael Woodhouse said the government should decline Manning a special direction visa because of her history of criminal convictions.
“This is a convicted felon, sentenced to 35 years in jail, coming in here for money,” Woodhouse told Stuff.
“The discretion is not there to apply to a person who expresses virtually no remorse for her offending … There’s no rehabilitation, no remorse, the very purpose of her visit to come and talk about her crimes.”
A spokesperson for Immigration New Zealand said “an appropriately delegated INZ staff member will look at the representations in the first instance”, and they had received an application from Manning’s representatives for a visa.
Greens MP and human rights lawyer Golriz Ghahraman said Manning posed no threat to New Zealand and called National’s stance on Manning “callous”
“Continuing to condemn Manning for exposing war crimes, including against children and journalists in Iraq and Afghanistan, deliberately shifts the conversation away from accountability of those responsible, effectively aligning us with the oppressor in a situation of injustice,” said Gharaman.
“National’s call to shun Manning is particularly callous, given the charges laid against her were all about speaking out against serious misuse of power and she has already served a lengthy sentence of imprisonment, at times in solitary confinement … Chelsea Manning clearly poses no viable risk to New Zealand.”
Manning has never apologized or expressed regret for leaking the documents to WikiLeaks, and said she did so because the difficulties of dealing with mainstream outlets left her no other option.
“There was literally no [other] way I could’ve done it,” she said. “I make a lot of mistakes but that doesn’t mean I regret those mistakes, because those are learning experiences as well.”
Manning’s prison sentence was cut short and she was released last year after Barack Obama intervened.
This is the second time in a month that the issue of free speech has made news in New Zealand. Auckland mayor Phil Goff banned far-right Canadian speakers Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern from speaking in any council buildings, and Ardern described New Zealand as “hostile to their views”, though many Kiwis said the duo had a right to speak and bought tickets to their events.
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