World News

NZ clears way for Chelsea Manning to visit

By AAP Newswire

New Zealand authorities have cleared the way for convicted American whistleblower Chelsea Manning to visit the country as part of a speaking tour, with the prime minister saying it's "a nation that allows free speech".

Manning, a former US army intelligence analyst best known as a leaker of classified military and diplomatic documents, for which she spent seven years behind bars, is scheduled to speak in Australia and New Zealand next month.

New Zealand's centre-right opposition this week called for the government to bar her from the country, saying she had put lives at risk and was profiting from her crimes.

However, Immigration New Zealand confirmed on Friday morning it had given Manning special dispensation to apply for a visa - a requirement for those who have served lengthy prison terms.

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

"The likelihood of her offending while in New Zealand is considered low ... (we) could see no reason to believe Ms Manning would not comply with the terms and conditions of any visa."

The visa process in the case is being viewed as largely a formality.

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

"We are a nation that allows free speech," she told reporters.

"I think there's interest in what she has to say and we should allow New Zealanders to hear that."

Opposition calls to keep Manning out because she was a "felon" and a "traitor" prompted outcry 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 "noteworthy albeit controversial".

The Green Party also backed her and spokeswoman Golriz Ghahraman welcomed the INZ decision as a matter of national pride.

Manning's case is the second recent free speech debate in New Zealand after controversial far-right Canadian speakers Stefan Molyneux and Lauren Southern were barred from appearing in Auckland Council venues and Ardern told media the country was "hostile to their views".

The Manning decision comes after her tour organiser, Think Inc, said this week it had received a notice of intention to deny the former soldier entry into Australia under section 501 of the Migration Act.

Greens leader Richard Di Natale on Friday joined the Australian Lawyers Alliance and Amnesty International in lobbying for new immigration minister David Coleman to allow Manning in.

She was banned from entering Canada last year due to her criminal convictions in the US but was allowed to speak in Montreal in May.