Czech drug-smuggler Karel Sroubek has spoken from behind bars about his bid for an early release being rejected by the Parole Board.
Sroubek came to New Zealand in 2003 on a false passport in the name of Jan Antolik.
He was found guilty in a 2011 jury trial of using a false passport and lying to immigration officials, but was discharged without conviction by the trial judge, who believed his evidence.
The representative kickboxer claimed he had to flee his home in the Czech Republic in fear of corrupt police officers and a criminal after witnessing a murder.
Four years later, he was jailed for five years and nine months for bringing a drug used to make Ecstasy into the country hidden among legitimate goods. He is due to finish his sentence in early 2022.
Sroubek has been battling to remain in New Zealand at the end of his sentence, arguing his life remains in danger if he returns to his homeland.
His case sparked a political firestorm that burned Immigration Minister Iain Lees-Galloway because of his initial decision to grant Sroubek residency.
He appeared before the Parole Board earlier this month and was deemed an undue risk to the public.
Factors the board deemed highly relevant to the risk he posed include: that he attempted to import drugs into New Zealand from the Czech Republic, his association with criminals in the Czech Republic and his association with the Hells Angels in New Zealand.
Today Sroubek sent a press release from prison to the Herald.
In it, Sroubek criticises the Parole Board.
"Like all things, there are two sides to every story," Sroubek said.
"Considering the exhausting interest in my case I am taking this opportunity to respond – less for me as I have no choice but to take this decision on the chin – but more for the parole system that remains unchanged for decades and still over-incarcerates inmates that in turn contributes to our record high levels of incarceration (second highest in the western world) but even more worryingly directly contributes to 'through the roof' reoffending rates.
"Prison sentences are divided into three parts – punishment, rehabilitation and reintegration. It's for this reason that most inmates become eligible for parole after serving a third of their sentence.
"It is not the role of the Parole Board to retry a prisoner – that happened when they were sentenced in court.
"The parole process is prescribed by New Zealand law that states that they must grant a prisoner release if they are not considered an 'undue risk to the community'."
Sroubek said the board went "way beyond their mandate" by keeping him inside.
"They chose to disagree with the professional opinion of case managers experienced in these matters who deemed my risk as being low," he said.
"They didn't stop there. They went beyond this and repeated unsubstantiated claims that I had 'associations with the Hells Angels', charges I was acquitted of in court.
"They also raised the issue of my use of false documents to gain entry into New Zealand despite a 2011 New Zealand Court ruling accepting the reasons for this where they agreed that my life was under grave threat in the Czech Republic.
"I was discharged without conviction and Judge (Roy) Wade (now retired) has recently publicly restated his belief that his ruling in my case was correct and for that I thank him - again."
Sroubek slated the board for revisiting his agreement to pay $160,000 in compensation to the Crown.
"This was an agreement made 'without prejudice' and without any admission of guilt," he said.
"It was a decision I made to avoid a trial and the prospect of going to jail.
"The Crown accepted the payment on these terms but for some reason the Parole Board does not."
In the lengthy statement, Sroubek went on to slam the board for believing that he had charges pending in his home country.
"The facts are that on one charge the case has been dismissed and in the other the Municipal Court acknowledges failures in due process and expert legal opinion with new information to hand is that the case is now highly unlikely even to make it to trial," he claimed.
"Notwithstanding this, the Parole Board have, it seems, in their wisdom, decided to find me guilty of these charges by taking them into account when denying my parole."
He said he was "disappointed" with the decision.
"But I draw strength from the wide range of friends and family who continue to support me.
"But New Zealand, you should be concerned when the parole system goes way beyond the recommendations of professional Department of Corrections staff versed in these matters and your own court judges and instead seems to make a decision that gives more weight to the innuendo and half facts that are fed to the media and the political opportunism of some. It is a dangerous precedent that undoubtedly and perversely contributes to a less safe society.
"Whatever you think of my particular situation you should be concerned that parole, when applied like this, is a system that judges and penalises people twice and runs directly counter to the Kiwi sense of fair play.
"All I want is to be able to return to society having paid my dues, understanding that there are no short cuts in life and to make a positive and pro social contribution where I can."
Parole Board chairman Sir Ron Young said in his decision that Sroubek had "behaved well" in prison.
"We also acknowledge that it is hardly his fault or responsibility that he has not had any rehabilitation programmes because Serco have assessed him at low risk of reoffending," he said.
But it was not a view shared by the Parole Board.
"We do not think it is low at all. Given the matters we have identified above, we think it is significantly higher than low.
"We think there is evidence to support the fact that Mr Antolik [Sroubek] has a significant history of illegal activity in both the Czech Republic and New Zealand and spread over many years."