Ahmed Zaoui a New Zealand citizen

ANDREA VANCE
Last updated 16:41 22/05/2014

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He was once named as a threat to national security. Now Ahmed Zaoui is a proud Kiwi after receiving New Zealand citizenship this afternoon.

Zaoui took part in an official ceremony in Auckland.

The occasion was tinged with sadness, as his wife, Leila Tidjani, was unable to attend. She has had to return to Algeria after the death of her mother.

"I'm just happy," Zaoui said.

"It's something different to be part of a democratic society that gave me an opportunity. It's very important.
"Unfortunately, the mum of my wife died yesterday. She was sick. My wife is not coming today."

The function took place at Waitakere's civic chambers.

Zaoui took an oath of allegiance, and declared he will honour the Queen. He was presented with a citizenship certificate and can apply for a passport.

It is a happy ending for the former politician who fled Algeria for Malaysia, fearing for his life, after a military coup in 1992.

He arrived in New Zealand illegally in 2002 and was jailed.

The Security Intelligence Service linked him to a terrorist group and declared him a security threat.

In his absence, the Algerian government convicted him of terrorism and sentenced him to death.

His case became a political cause celebre, with musician Dave Dobbyn penning a song about his plight.

Zaoui was released from prison in 2004, but it took another three years for the SIS to remove the red flag.

In 2009, the father of four moved to Palmerston North and opened a kebab cart.

Zaoui now lives in Avondale, Auckland.

He was reunited with his wife after 11 years apart.

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