A friend of a former New Zealand soldier being held in an Australian prison despite having no criminal record says the man is one of the most morally upstanding people he knows and his detention is ludicrous.
Ko Haapu - who is associated with the Rebels motorcycle club - has had his visa revoked and is being held pending deportation under tough new Australian rules, even though he has no criminal record.
Dozens of New Zealanders have been detained and deported under the new rules since they were introduced late last year.
Mr Haapu is now being held in a West Australian jail.
He was part of the security detail for Prime Minister John Key in Afghanistan in 2010, and Mr Key said yesterday he recognised Mr Haapu but was not able to comment on the specifics of the case.
Mr Haapu's friend, former soldier Toby Costello, has started a petition calling for the Australians to release him.
It has about 3700 signatures.
Mr Costello said Mr Haapu was one of the nicest and most respectable people he knew.
"He is one of the most morally upstanding people I have ever met in my life. If I ever had any problems, I would always call him. He would always have really good advice."
Mr Haapu's association with the Rebels motorcycle club was irrelevant, said Mr Costello.
"That's a stereotype - it's called a gang, but by who? It's a club, and obviously there might be some bad apples here and there, but there are bad apples everywhere. It doesn't mean he's a bad person, they haven't looked far enough into it to know he is nothing like that."
Mr Costello said he did not trust the Australian government's suggestion that there was more information about him to come out.
"They can say anything - they can clearly do whatever they want because they are doing it, so they can clearly say anything they want to make people believe this is okay, but it's not."