Algeria custody battle dad accuses NZ diplomat of lying

Olympic boxer Mohamed Azzaoui allegedly lured his Kiwi wife and children to Algeria. Photo / Thinkstock
Olympic boxer Mohamed Azzaoui allegedly lured his Kiwi wife and children to Algeria. Photo / Thinkstock

The father of three children at the centre of a custody battle in Algeria has accused of the New Zealand diplomat involved of lying about who she was.

Mohamed Azzaoui, 36, spoke to BBC correspondent Chloe Arnold over the dispute in which he is alleged to be holding his three children captive from their Northland mother in an apartment his hometown of Mostaganem, Algeria.

Kaikohe woman Mihi Puriri, 33, said she travelled with her husband of more than 10 years and their three children to Algeria last August because she thought his father was gravely ill.

On arrival, her husband destroyed the family passports and then held her daughters Iman, 5, Assiya, 2, and son Zakaria, 11 months, captive in an apartment in his hometown of Mostaganem. She was free to leave but was forced to leave her children.

Ms Puriri has not seen or spoken to her children since she managed to escape where she was staying on February 27 following a tense stand-off between a New Zealand diplomat and tens of police, soldiers and Algerian locals.

BBC correspondent Arnold told National radio today that she spoke to a "very belligerent" Mr Azzaoui last week.

"He said this is a matter only for him and his wife and he was very angry that the media was getting involved. On the telephone he said this was absolutely nothing to do with anyone but him and his wife," she told Radio New Zealand.

The retired boxer said he didn't believe New Zealand Consul Barbara Welton, who had travelled from Cairo to the apartment with a full gendarme escort to carry out a welfare visit, was who she said she was.

"... he said this was just a New Zealander who had stolen this woman's business card and pretended to be the consul and come to his home and tried to steal the children".

Ms Welton was reportedly involved in a tense stand-off over three children and sat on the floor refusing to leave the property "without my citizens".

Ms Puriri earlier spoke of her despair over the seven-month battle over the children and has vowed to get her children back from the Azzaoui family.

"When I first met her she didn't even have a voice, she had been crying for three days solidly. But she has pulled together now and she's very determined to do anything it takes to get her children back," Arnold said.

She said the Algerian authorities were not involved in the custody case yet.

Ms Puriri says she has been working with Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials and negotiating with her husband to help get her children back. Legal experts say that because Algeria is not a signatory to the Hague Convention, she is at the mercy of the Algerian legal system in the fight for her children.


- APNZ

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