New Zealand court grants China’s extradition request for murder suspect in landmark case

Chinese authorities are accusing Kyung Yup Kim, a South Korean citizen permanently residing in New Zealand, of killing a woman in Shanghai in 2009, according to court documents.

China first sought his extradition from New Zealand in 2011, but Kim’s lawyers argued he was at risk of torture and would not receive a fair trial under the system the country’s murky judiciary, sparking years of legal wrangling.

Like many Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom, New Zealand does not have an extradition treaty with China.

In its ruling, the New Zealand Supreme Court ruled by three judges to two that Kim’s extradition should proceed. The three judges in favor said they had received sufficient assurances from China and were “convinced that there was no real risk that Mr. Kim would face an unfair trial”.

Chinese authorities assured the court that if extradited, Kim would have access to New Zealand consular staff and would be tried and detained in Shanghai rather than being sent elsewhere in the country, according to the ruling.

The court added that it was confident that China would keep its word, citing “the strength of (China’s) motivation to honor the assurances” and “the strength of the bilateral relationship between the two countries”.

Kim’s lawyers had argued that the high-profile nature of the case and his sensitivity to Chinese authorities put him at high risk. In Wednesday’s decision, the court disagreed, saying he was “an ordinary suspect” because he “does not belong to a minority group and is not a political prisoner”.

In a statement to CNN, Tony Ellis, Kim’s lead attorney, said Kim was “very disappointed with the judgment.”

The team will fight extradition by filing a complaint with the United Nations Human Rights Committee and seek further judicial review if necessary, Ellis said.

He cited the more than two years it took the Supreme Court to issue its decision and Kim’s many health issues – including severe depression, a small brain tumor and liver and kidney disease – as reasons for his decision. ‘objection.

After China’s initial extradition request in 2011, Kim was held for five years and then released on bail on the condition that he wear an ankle bracelet, making him the longest held without trial in modern New Zealand history, Ellis said.

The case against Kim

Kim has lived in New Zealand since she was 14, according to court documents. Her mother is also a permanent resident of New Zealand, while her father, brother and two children are citizens.

The case against him dates back to December 2009, when a young woman who worked as a waitress in a bar was found dead in Shanghai, according to court documents. At the time, Kim was visiting Shanghai and rented an apartment there.

Pieces of a quilt were found on his body – which were identified by Kim’s girlfriend as being similar to the one he owned. When police searched Kim’s apartment, they found samples matching the waitress’ DNA.

Kim also told a contact in a phone conversation that he may have beaten a sex worker to death, police say.

Court documents say there is evidence to suggest the waitress may have engaged in sex work.

Kim denied the murder charges.

Legal battle

Following China’s initial extradition request, New Zealand courts ruled in 2013 that Kim could be handed over and this decision was confirmed two years later by the Minister of Justice. However, Kim filed for judicial review and successfully challenged the decision.

After receiving further assurances from China that it would treat Kim humanely, the minister decided in 2016 to recommend Kim’s extradition for a second time.

Kim challenged the decision again – first unsuccessfully in the High Court, then successfully in the Court of Appeal in 2019.

The case then went to the Supreme Court for a final decision.

At the time, China’s foreign ministry urged New Zealand to extradite Kim ‘as soon as possible, so that justice can be served for the victim’, and defended China’s justice system as respecting ‘the legal rights of suspects. “.

In China, the courts, prosecutors and police are overseen by the powerful Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission of the Communist Party of China and its local branches.

China’s court system has a conviction rate of around 99%, according to legal observers. Human rights advocates say unfair trials and torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are common.

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