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Disappeared refugee feared for life

BLAIR ENSOR AND TONY WALL
Last updated 05:00 25/08/2014
khalid muidh alzahani
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/ Fairfax NZ
DIFFERENT WORLDS: Friends of Christian convert Khalid Muidh Alzahrani fear the refugee has been abducted from his Christchurch flat and taken back to Saudi Arabia – home to the Islamic holy city of Mecca – where it is against the law for Muslims to abandon their faith.

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A Saudi Arabian refugee, who left New Zealand in mysterious circumstances, feared he was being spied on and believed he would be killed if he returned to his homeland.

No one has seen or heard from Khalid Muidh Alzahrani, known as Daniel, since he left his Christchurch council flat in a hurry with two men.

His former English teacher and friend believes he has either been kidnapped or forced to return home because his wife and two children had been threatened.

Louise Macfarlane has called for a thorough investigation into the Christian convert's sudden departure from the city more than three weeks ago.

"I hope that we don't live in a country that's so blase, that we just don't accept this kind of thing," Macfarlane, 37, said through tears yesterday.

Food can be seen rotting inside on the kitchen bench at Alzahrani's Redwood flat.

Alzahrani, 42, arrived in Christchurch about five years ago on a Saudi Government scholarship before converting to Christianity and applying for asylum.

He was granted refugee status on the grounds that he would be persecuted in Saudi Arabia. He told friends he was terrified he would be kidnapped and forced to return.

"He said to me he would be killed if he went back," Macfarlane said.

The Saudi ambassador to New Zealand said Alzahrani had insisted on returning home to visit his mother and the consulate had paid for his air ticket.

His friends believed he was taken out of the country under duress, possibly by agents of the state or family members.

Police said they were satisfied Alzahrani had left voluntarily, but were checking on his situation through Interpol.

Macfarlane said Alzahrani feared he was being spied on when she last met him in May.

"I thought he was being dramatic, but now I know that he knew the true danger he was in."

She found it hard to comprehend that someone who had claimed asylum in New Zealand from religious persecution in their home country could be allowed to return there without further questions.

Immigration New Zealand confirmed that Alzahrani left the country on July 31, but refused to say if he was travelling alone.

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- The Press

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