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 10, Postscript.
After winning his freedom in 2007, Ahmed Zaoui was finally back in control of his life.
His wife Layla and four sons were able to join him in New Zealand, but he was nervous about their impending reunion.
He hadn't seen his sons for five years and he was afraid their bond had been broken by the events in New Zealand.
"I was scared before they come to me," Zaoui explains in the podcast Enemy of the State: The Ahmed Zaoui File.
"You leave them in childhood and find them in youth."
Zaoui's lawyer Deborah Manning was there when the family was reunited at the Mangere Refugee Centre.
"He just walks to meet them, and they walked to meet him. And they embrace and then they go and have a cup of tea together. Quiet. Calm. A family straight away."
Zaoui was soon offered a temporary job at a mosque in Palmerston North. When that position ended, he opened a small business selling Algerian-style kebabs.
"Can you imagine?" his former lawyer Richard McLeod says. "This is a guy who was supposedly our biggest threat to national security. Ran a kebab shop in the square in Massey where pissed university students turned up in the middle of the night for a kebab."
Many people assume he is still there. But some years later he was back in Auckland when he received a knock on the door.
"Some Algerian officers of the Secret Service they contact me and say 'Ahmed, why didn't you come back to Algeria?'"
Zaoui was afraid that this was a trick. After all, the Algerian military regime had sentenced him to death in absentia – not once, but twice.
Once all of the alerts and arrest warrants – the red flags that first alerted the New Zealand authorities back in 2002 – were removed, he was free to travel.
He hadn't seen his homeland in 25 years.
His two lawyers watched the family leave New Zealand – all now with two passports, one from New Zealand and new Algerian ones for each family member. All genuine.
"Although he loves New Zealand and he does consider New Zealand home, his true home and his true heart is in Algeria," Deborah Manning says.
"He was really only here because he needed our help. And when it was safe to go back, he did go back. And you know, that's how it should be."
Judge Ema Aitkin, the chair of the Refugee Status Appeals Authority back in 2003, was pleasantly surprised to hear the news.
"People have this terrible attitude to refugees. They think they are all bludgers, and they just want our fabulous little country," she says.
"No, in my experience they want protection. They do not want to live in fear. Given the chance to go home safely, I think the genuine refugee would go home."
Today Ahmed Zaoui works in his community in Medea – Algeria's second-largest city. He has helped build a school, assists at his local mosque, and is currently exploring business opportunities between Algeria and New Zealand.
One of those involves importing New Zealand mānuka honey into Algeria.
He has recently recovered from Covid-19.
Enemy of the State: The Ahmed Zaoui File was made with the support of NZ On Air.