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US whistleblower and activist Chelsea Manning has been granted permission to apply for a visa to enter New Zealand for two speaking events in September.
Immigration New Zealand has confirmed a special direction had been granted Manning, meaning she could now apply for a specific purpose work visa to enter New Zealand for the events in Auckland on September 8 and Wellington on September 9.
Manning needed a special direction as she was subject to character provisions in section 15 of the Immigration Act.
National's immigration spokesman and former immigration minister Michael Woodhouse this week called for Manning to be banned from New Zealand because of her criminal record.
Manning, a former US Army intelligence analyst, served seven of a 35-year prison sentence for theft and espionage after releasing hundreds of thousands of classified or sensitive documents to Wikileaks.
Woodhouse said if Manning's application had come across his desk as immigration minister he would have declined it.
"She was convicted of a crime for which she has absolutely no remorse and not only that, she intends to profit from it by selling tickets to meetings where she talks about exactly what she did. I don't think that's appropriate and I think the associate minister should be declining it."
However Immigration NZ said today that while 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.
"The assessment noted that Ms Manning has not reoffended since her release from prison and the likelihood of her offending while in New Zealand is considered low.
"It was also noted that she has travelled to a number of countries to speak at similar events and appears to have complied with the terms and conditions of any visas issued.
"In reaching the decision the officer could see no reason to believe Ms Manning would not comply with the terms and conditions of any visa issued by INZ."
Manning was this week denied access to Australia, where she was due to speak at the Sydney Opera House, Brisbane and Melbourne.
Think Inc, the Australian organiser of Manning's tour, said it had been informed her visa application had been denied but it would appeal against the decision.
Think Inc director Suzi Jamil earlier said she had received a Notice of Intention to Consider Refusal under s501 of the Migration Act from the Australian Government over the application for Manning.
Section 501 is the same grounds used to deport hundreds of New Zealanders with criminal convictions on character grounds.
Manning was also banned from entering Canada last year but in May was granted a temporary permit to go there for a public engagement.
Her planned events in New Zealand has reignited the debate over free speech, which became a hot topic when Canadian alt-right activists Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux came to New Zealand recently.
Opposition to their presence forced the cancellation of a speaking event in Auckland.