Chelsea Manning cleared to visit New Zealand, Australia's trip still in doubt

Chelsea Manning.

New Zealand authorities have cleared the way for convicted US informant Chelsea Manning to visit the country as part of a conference tour, with the prime minister saying it is "a nation that allows freedom of expression."

Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst best known as an infiltrator of military documents and classified diplomats, spent seven years behind bars, scheduled to speak in Australia and New Zealand next month.

The center-right opposition in New Zealand this week called on the government to exclude her from the country, saying she had put lives at risk and that she was benefiting from her crimes.

However, Immigration New Zealand confirmed on Friday morning that it had granted Manning a special waiver to apply for a visa, a requirement for those who have served long prison terms.

"While Ms. Manning was convicted of a serious offense and sentenced to 35 years in prison, it was noted that her sentence was commuted by President Obama in January 2017," said INZ CEO Steve Stuart.

Chelsea Manning could be denied entry to Australia under section 501 of the Migration Act.


"The likelihood of her offending while in New Zealand is considered low … (we) could not see any reason to believe that Ms. Manning would not comply with the terms and conditions of any visa."

The visa process in the case is seen as a great formality.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Friday rejected opposition warnings that Manning's visit would damage relations with the United States, but said the decision was for the immigration authorities, not for her.

"We are a nation that allows freedom of expression," he told reporters.

"I think there is interest in what he has to say and we should allow the New Zealanders to listen to him."

Opposition calls to keep Manning out because he was a "criminal" and a "traitor" sparked protests across New Zealand this week.

The Free Speech Coalition condemned the call for a ban and said citizens had the right to hear from someone who was "worthy of mention though controversial."

The Green Party also supported her and spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman welcomed INZ's decision as a matter of national pride.

Manning's case is the second recent debate on freedom of expression in New Zealand after controversial far-right Canadian parliamentarians Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern could not show up at Auckland Council premises and Ardern told the media that the country He was "hostile to his views."

Manning's decision comes after his tour organizer, Think Inc, said this week that he had received a notice of intent to deny the former soldier's entry into Australia under section 501 of the Migration Act.

Green leader Richard Di Natale joined the Australian Lawyers Alliance and Amnesty International on Friday to press the new immigration minister, David Coleman, to allow Manning to enter.

He was banned from entering Canada last year because of his criminal convictions in the United States, but he was allowed to speak in Montreal in May.