Call for more information on Kiwi drone death
JESS MCALLEN AND TONY WALL
Former Green MP Keith Locke is urging New Zealanders to demand information about the Kiwi killed in a drone strike overseas last year.
Daryl Jones was killed last November in a US Predator drone strike on Al-Qaeda militants in Yemen. Jones, who had dual New Zealand and Australian citizenship, was not the target of the strike.
Following Sunday Star-Times revelations into the circumstances of Jones' death, the former Green Party spokesperson for foreign affairs, defence, immigration and human rights said New Zealand should be concerned.
"When a New Zealand citizen is essentially assassinated without a trial we need to know the justification - we're not at war with Yemen - it's not acceptable to hide behind supposedly confidential sources," says Locke.
Thirty-year-old Jones converted to Islam in 2008 and attended the Sydney Lakemba Mosque - known as a hotbed of radicalism. He drew the attention of counter-terrorism authorities because of the company he kept.
Prime Minister John Key, minister in charge of the Security Intelligence Service, initially refused to release Jones' real name until it was reported in Australian media. He said the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) did not supply information that led directly to Jones' death, but had a warrant to monitor him and passed information to Five Eyes security agency partners.
Key said drone strikes were justified, even when innocent civilians were mistakenly killed.
The most disturbing element of the drone killing in Yemen and ongoing deaths in Gaza was that collateral damage was seen as acceptable, Locke said.
"Often they have a particular target who they are going to kill with no trial, knowing there is a considerable likelihood for other people to get killed or injured."
Jones changed his name to Muslim bin John, married a Somali woman and around 2009 headed to Saudi Arabia and then Yemen - the home of Osama bin Laden and home base of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).
He told his family he wanted to teach English and help people but a source told the Sunday Star-Times Jones was thrown in prison in Yemen for not being a registered teacher, leaving his wife and four children stranded.
Locke said Key needed to respond to legitimate requests for information or people would think there wasn't a good cause behind the strike, or the Government was trying to avoid embarrassment by not releasing the information.
"No New Zealander can be subject to assassination without good reason. The way a democracy works is not just trusting the Prime Minister, society has to know the facts so we can judge for ourselves, as New Zealanders."
The Sunday Star-Times sought information on Jones from the Department of Internal Affairs (DIA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
DIA confirmed it held passport information on him but refused to release details on privacy and national security grounds. MFAT said: "The family has requested privacy and we won't be commenting."
A senior DIA source said pressure was exerted from the Prime Minister's office not to release information.
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