What do you do when the state locks you in jail and calls you a terrorist - but refuses to say why? John Keir tells the inside story behind New Zealand's biggest security scandal in Enemy of the State: The Ahmed Zaoui File. Today: Episode 1, The Fugitive.
The first movie Ahmed Zaoui ever watched was The Fugitive.
"Do you know The Fugitive?" he asks with a smile in the Herald's new podcast, Enemy of the State: The Ahmed Zaoui File. "He run a lot, and I run a lot."
The Algerian refugee was reminded of the film often as he fled from his country's ruthless military government across the world, arriving in New Zealand in December 2002 and thinking his long journey was over.
He had no idea he was about to become our most famous political prisoner, detained against his will until 2007 at the centre of this country's biggest security scandal.
When Zaoui landed in Auckland, he bought a phone and rang his wife Layla to tell her he had landed safely.
"Maybe I was naive," he admits.
The religious scholar and former politician had chosen to come to New Zealand because a year earlier Prime Minister Helen Clark and the New Zealand Labour Government had welcomed asylum seekers from Afghanistan, the Tampa boat people.
But when he gave his real name, it triggered an international alert based on convictions in French and Belgian courts that suggested he was the European leader of a militant Islamic group called the GIA. It would take five long years to prove those rumours wrong.
"They put me in a cold place in the airport with the police," Zaoui remembers of his first hours in New Zealand. "There was no translator who could explain to me what was happening.
"And then I start to get scared because the way to treat an asylum seeker is not like this."
After years on the run from the Algerian military government, Zaoui was living with his family in Malaysia when he learned a French court had found him guilty in absentia of terrorism-related crimes.
He paid about NZ$700 for a fake South African passport and made it to Vietnam, where he boarded a Korean Airlines flight from Hanoi to Auckland.
When the plane landed here, Zaoui pretended to have stomach cramps. An air hostess allowed him to go to one of the aircraft bathrooms, where he flushed the bogus passport down the toilet.
Many New Zealanders believed at the time that Zaoui must have had criminal intentions because he was travelling on false documents, but his legal team say that assumption was wrong and the logic still applies to other refugees.
"It's not just a matter of rocking up to the nearest New Zealand embassy and saying, 'Hi. I'd like to come to your country and seek asylum'," says Richard McLeod, a specialist immigration lawyer.
"They'll never get a visa. They'd never get in."
His colleague Deborah Manning, who also specialises in immigration law, agrees in the podcast that Zaoui beat the system simply by arriving in New Zealand.
"[This] doesn't mean there's less refugees, it just means that New Zealand's become better at blocking them from getting here. That's what I consider to be one of New Zealand's dirty little secrets."
Enemy of the State: The Ahmed Zaoui File was made with the support of NZ On Air.