Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

NZ resident gets bail days after being told he will be extradited to China to face murder charges

Justice Minister Amy Adams has decided Kyung Yup Kim should be extradited to China to face murder charges. NZH photo by Mark Mitchell.
Justice Minister Amy Adams has decided Kyung Yup Kim should be extradited to China to face murder charges. NZH photo by Mark Mitchell.

A New Zealand resident that China wants extradited to face murder charges has been granted bail after more than five years in jail.

It has been a big few days for Korean-born New Zealand resident Kyung Yup Kim.

Justice Minister Amy Adams on Monday informed him that she had decided he would be extradited.

Today, the Wellington High Court ruled Kim should be bailed after he spent more than five years in Mt Eden prison.

His lawyer Dr Tony Ellis told the Herald he expected his client could be out of jail as soon as Friday.

That was a big relief, given they had been seeking bail since he was locked up.

"I think he must be the longest person ever detained without trial in New Zealand, this side of the Maori land wars.

"Essentially he should be bailed until the final decision on whether he is being surrendered or not is made, which could be a year or two away."

Ellis had not yet spoken to his client, but had sent the news to Kim's brother.

In a judgment released this afternoon, Justice Jillian Mallon wrote that Kim had been detained for a very long time for alleged offending that wasn't proven.

He had suffered health issues including depression, and his two daughters were now finishing high school, having been intermediate school-aged when he was first arrested.

His mother, father, brother and daughters live in New Zealand, the judgment noted, he does not have a current passport and bail would be electronically-monitored.

For these reasons, Justice Mallon decided to grant bail.

Ellis said Kim had become suicidal in jail: "It's not good to be detained for that long, especially because the Chinese haven't bothered to interview him here".

In terms of extradition, Ellis said China's human rights record meant there was a real possibility Kim would be tortured upon his arrival. Further, a guarantee of a fair trial was impossible.

Kim has been held at the Mt Eden Corrections Facility since an Auckland District Court judge issued a provisional warrant for his arrest in June 2011.

The warrant was issued at the request of Chinese authorities, who are seeking Kim's extradition over the murder of 20-year-old Peiyun Chen.

Chinese criminal investigators allege Kim killed Chen at his Shanghai home on December 11, 2009, before dumping her body in a wasteland and fleeing to South Korea.

Kim returned to New Zealand, where he has held permanent residency since age 14, in October 2010.

China asked that he be sent back but because there is no extradition treaty between New Zealand and Beijing the request went to then-Justice Minister Simon Power.

Power allowed the case to go to court, starting a drawn-out legal process that eventually returned the decision to Adams.

She ordered Kim's extradition on November 30 last year, but that decision was successfully challenged by judicial review in a judgment delivered in July.

Adams was directed to give further consideration to a number of specified matters. She did so and has again decided he should be extradited.

The Justice Minister has sought and received undertakings from the Chinese government waiving the death penalty should Kim be convicted and providing for his monitoring, fair treatment and trial.

"Because further legal proceedings are possible, it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time," Adams said in a statement.

Kim had lost a number of previous applications for bail, including because he was considered a flight risk.

After a meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jingping in Beijing in April, Prime Minister John Key said China was keen to sign an extradition treaty with New Zealand.

"If they see people that have fled offshore who they believe to be corrupt, they want to bring those people back and hold them to account," Key said after the meeting.

"So he is very animated when he talks about this topic, he passionately cares about it but I don't think he's saying one is linked to the other."

Key has said he is confident in Chinese assurances that a person extradited from New Zealand won't be executed or tortured, but Amnesty International has warned that China impedes on human rights through unfair trials, forced labour, torture and arbitrary detention.

- NZ Herald

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