New Zealand court rules suspect can be extradited to China

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — New Zealand’s highest court ruled on Wednesday that a man could be extradited to China to face a murder charge — a landmark ruling that goes against the trend set by most democratic nations.

In a 3-2 decision, the Supreme Court found that China was able to provide New Zealand authorities with sufficient assurance that the defendant, Kyung Yup Kim, would receive a fair trial and would not be tortured.

Concern over these issues has been enough to prevent most democratic countries from extraditing suspects to China in recent times. Like many other countries, New Zealand does not have a formal extradition treaty with China.

The decision will certainly be celebrated by the ruling Chinese Communist Party not only as a legal victory, but also as a diplomatic and public relations success.

But Kim’s lawyers said they would try to stop the extradition, first by filing a complaint with the UN Human Rights Committee and then, if necessary, filing a new judicial review. based on Kim’s poor health.

Attorney Tony Ellis said Kim was very disappointed with the judgment. He said his client was in a suicidal state due to his health issues, including severe depression, a small brain tumor, and liver and kidney disease.

Ellis said he struggled to understand the decision given that over the past 10 years most countries had stopped extraditing people to China. He said almost all suspects in China plead guilty before being tried because they know that if they don’t they will be tortured.

He said China could see the move as an encouragement to initiate extradition proceedings against people who fled the country and were charged with economic crimes.

New Zealand Justice Minister Kris Faafoi declined to comment on the case, which has dragged on for 11 years.

In rendering its decision, the Supreme Court reversed an earlier decision by the Court of Appeal.

In a bizarre twist, two Supreme Court justices had recused themselves because before being promoted to the highest court they had served on the appeals court – where both had ruled against extradition.

The Supreme Court found that China was able to provide sufficient assurance that Kim would be imprisoned in Shanghai, where New Zealand consulate staff could monitor him before and during his trial. This would include visits at least every other day before his trial and at other times he requested.

China also told officials that Kim would serve his prison term in Shanghai if found guilty.

The court concluded that “if there are no substantial grounds to believe that an accused individual is in danger of being tortured as a result of the assurances provided, the individual should not avoid prosecution for a serious crime”.

Kim’s lawyers argued unsuccessfully that consular staff could not adequately monitor Kim while he was in prison, particularly if he was subjected to hard-to-detect torture, such as forced drugging.

Kim was arrested in 2011 after China requested his extradition on one count of intentional homicide.

He was incarcerated in New Zealand prisons for more than five years and spent another three years under electronic surveillance, making him the longest serving prisoner not to be tried in modern New Zealand.

According to court documents, Kim is a South Korean citizen who moved to New Zealand more than 30 years ago with his family when he was 14.

He is accused of killing a 20-year-old waitress and sex worker, Peiyun Chen, in Shanghai after traveling to the city to visit another woman who was his girlfriend at the time.

Chen was found in a Shanghai desert on New Year’s Eve 2009. An autopsy concluded that she had been strangled to death and had also been struck in the head with a blunt object.

Chinese police say they have forensic and circumstantial evidence linking Kim to the crime, including a quilt found with the body. Police say a distraught Kim told an acquaintance he may have “beat a prostitute to death”.

Kim says he’s innocent. Ellis said his defense would be that his former girlfriend, who has connections to the Communist Party, is responsible for the crime.

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