Former Kiwi soldier imprisoned in Australia

Former Kiwi soldier imprisoned in Australia

The dispute between New Zealand and Australia over Kiwi detainees has a new face tonight.

And it's not a murderer or a rapist – but a decorated war hero currently in a maximum security prison in Perth, despite never committing a crime.

Ko Haapu had his visa revoked last week for being a member of a motorcycle gang, and faces deportation to New Zealand.

Teresa Mariner normally likes to cuddle up to her partner but now she has to make do with photos.

She describes the 34-year-old Haapu as a family man who would do anything for her and her daughter. He was also willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for his country.

Haapu spent five years putting his life on the line for New Zealand and was awarded three medals for his service in abroad. He was even employed as one of John Keys bodyguards on a tour of Afghanistan.

The former Lance Corporal was a gunner on the Humvee, and in the thick of the action. He was part of the gun battle which killed Lieutenant Timothy O'Donnell in 2010.

Despite being locked up by the Australian government, he says he wouldn't hesitate to fight with them again under the ANZAC banner. 

His lawyer, Michael Pena-Rees, says he should be treated like a hero, not a criminal. 

"Even the prison authorities were shocked they had someone of such high reputation sitting in their high security cells."

Also sitting behind bars are 199 detainees on Christmas Island. More than 50 of these detainees are Kiwis and there are reports those involved in the riots are being held without food and water.

Five were injured after the guards and police took back control.

The damage is expected to top $1 million, and the Australian immigration minister, Peter Dutton reiterates those responsible will be punished.

"Australia, like New Zealand, will not tolerate people coming into the community committing offences and staying in the community."

Judging by headlines in some Australian newspapers, the community agrees.

"Australia will do what is in our best interests and it's not in our best interests to have these people running around in our community committing crimes. We're talking about outlaw motorcycle gangs here," Mr Dutton says.

Being part of a motorcycle gang is not a crime. But under the new hard-line law says it is enough to get your visa torn up.

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