(WELLINGTON, New Zealand) — New Zealand authorities said on Friday that convicted secrets leaker Chelsea Manning can enter the country for a speaking tour, a day after tour organizers said she couldn’t enter Australia.
Manning was convicted and sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking U.S. government secrets and would not normally qualify for entry into New Zealand under its good-character provisions.
But Immigration New Zealand General Manager Steve Stuart said Manning had been granted a “special direction,” allowing her to apply for a working visa for planned speaking events in Auckland and Wellington next month.
Stuart said the agency noted that Manning’s sentence had been commuted by President Barack Obama in 2017, that she had not reoffended since being released, and that the chances of her offending while in New Zealand were low.
New Zealand’s conservative opposition National Party had urged the government to ban Manning, saying her appearance would not enhance New Zealand’s relationship with the U.S.
Australia has similar good-character rules to New Zealand. Manning’s tour was due to start in Sydney on Sunday, but on Thursday event organizer Think Inc. said it had received a notice of intention from the Australian government to deny Manning entry.
The group was calling on her supporters to lobby new Immigration Minister David Coleman to allow her into Australia. While Manning can appeal, past precedent suggests the decision has already been made.
Think Inc. said it had given the government letters of support from individuals and organizations who support Manning’s entry to Australia.
“Ms. Manning offers formidable ideas and an insightful perspective which we are hoping to bring to the forefront of Australian dialogue,” Think Inc. Director Suzi Jamil said in a statement.
Manning, 30, acknowledged leaking more than 700,000 military and State Department documents to anti-secrecy site WikiLeaks in 2010. Known as Bradley Manning at the time of her arrest, she came out as transgender after her 2013 court-martial. She recently lost a Democratic primary in a long-shot bid for a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland.
Under its good-character rules, New Zealand typically denies entry to people who have been sentenced to five years or more in prison at any time in their lives, or who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison at some point during the last 10 years.
Associated Press reporter Rod McGuirk in Canberra, Australia, contributed to this report.
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