New Zealand judge refuses to disclose identities in rare espionage case

New Zealand Defence Force

A JUDGE IN NEW Zealand rejected on Monday a request by news media to lift the ban on the identity of a soldier, who was arrested nearly two years ago for allegedly spying for a foreign country. The soldier was arrested in December of 2019, and is being prosecuted under New Zealand’s 1961 Crimes Act. It is the first time in the post-Cold War era that this act has being used to prosecute someone in New Zealand.

The accused is facing a total of 17 charges, including six counts of espionage and attempted espionage, three counts of accessing a computer system for a dishonest purpose, and two counts of possessing an objectionable publication. The latter charge is believed to relate to the accused’s alleged connection with far-right and white nationalist organizations in New Zealand and possibly Australia. This claim has not been confirmed, however.

Since the arrest of the soldier, his name, as well as that of his wife and of multiple witnesses for the government, have been suppressed by the court. Importantly, the country for which the accused allegedly spied for has also been suppressed. This was done at the request of the government of New Zealand, which claims that doing otherwise could imperil “the defense and security of New Zealand”. The government also argues that naming the country for which the accused is believed to have spied could harm New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with that country.

On Monday, during a pre-trial court-martial hearing in Palmerston North, in which the suspect appeared via video-link, the chief judge in the case decided to extend the suppression of the information about the identity of those involved. The judge, Kevin Riordan, said that the name suppression would be extended at least until the next pre-trial hearing, which has not yet been scheduled. The trial was initially due to begin on October 6, but has been postponed indefinitely, due to complications arising from the use of classified evidence that the government’s lawyers intend to present during the court case.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 27 September 2021 | Permalink

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