A discussion of contemporary issues in media ethics, with olives and a twist. Made with only the freshest ingredients, shaken, stirred and poured over ice. I should also mention that I do like the odd, occasional martini. Bombay Sapphire gin and Lillet, dry and plenty of salty olives. Welcome to this cocktail of journalism and alcohol. A fine combination!

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

A clever con...or a miscarriage of justice?

TV3 > Programmes > News and Current Affairs > 60 Minutes

I'm not normally one to praise the 60 Minutes programme, in fact as a rule I don't watch it. But this week, perhaps as a result of being immersed in a conference about how much journalism actually matters to our society, I decided to catch up on some current affairs TV when I got back to Auckland.

I watched Campbell Live, which I must admit doesn't thrill me at all, but then the promos for 60 Minutes came on and I was fascinated with their lead story about a young Iraqi man who's been convicted of smuggling drugs into New Zealand.

Mazin Jaburi claims that he smuggled over $200K of ecstasy from Amsterdam because a criminal gang in Baghdad had kidnapped his sister and threatened to kill her.

Initially the NZ customs service believed him and the police took Mazin to his hotel where he was to hand over the drugs. But the next day he was arrested and charged. The court/jury did not believe his story and he was found guilty. He is to be sentenced in the Manakau District Court next week.

The defence counsel claimed to have proof of Mazin's sister's kidnap and murder, but the evidence was not allowed at the trial because the prosecution said it would not be able to cross-examine witnesses. Mazin's cousin was prepared to travel to NZ to give evidence, but he could not secure a visa.

I've spoken to Sarah Hall, the 60 Minutes' reporter covering this story. Like me, she has doubts about the safety of Mazin's conviction. She says that the programme is hoping to do a follow-up.

I've also spoken to Mazin's lawyer, David Niven, who obviously has to be circumspect in what he says because the matter is still before the courts. It is unlikely that this matter will be over when Mazin is sentenced next week.

I think this is a potentially serious miscarriage of justice, or at least an unsafe verdict, and I'd urge you to watch Sarah's story at the 60 Minutes / TV3 website. It seems to me that this is a case that might well be taken up by any "Justice Project" groups in New Zealand who care to take a look.

I have no real way, at the moment, of establishing Mazin's guilt or innocence, but according to New Zealand law, the crown has to prove a case beyond reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. I have some reasonable doubt about this case.

Kudos to Sarah Hall and 60 Minutes for running this story. I hope they are able to follow it up and that civil rights activists in New Zealand also take a look at the trial, the evidence and the process.

There's a good possibility that Mazin may go to gaol for up to 10 years, as he says in the 60 Minutes' story, the death of his sister seems punishment enough.

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