New Zealand ex-lawmaker of Iranian origin convicted of shoplifting and fined

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Former New Zealand lawmaker Golriz Ghahraman was convicted of shoplifting and fined on Thursday, in a scandal that has left the center-left politician’s once-promising career in tatters.

Ghahraman, the first refugee elected to New Zealand’s parliament, stepped down from her political duties on January 16, citing the need to address her mental health.

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The next day, police charged the former rising star of the Green Party with shoplifting from boutique clothing stores.

Ghahraman pleaded guilty in March to four counts of shoplifting after stealing around NZ$9,000 worth (US$5,500) of items late last year from shops in Auckland and Wellington.

The 43-year-old, who previously served as her party’s justice spokeswoman, was fined NZ$1,600 and ordered to pay NZ$260 in costs at Auckland district court, the deputy registrar told AFP.

Her show of remorse, repayment for the stolen items and the fact she was a first-time offender meant Ghahraman avoided a jail sentence, Judge June Jelas said.

In a pre-recorded interview with TVNZ that aired Thursday, Ghahraman said she shoplifted because she wanted to get out of politics due to the stress.

“It was self-sabotage,” she added. “My great regret is to have caused other people distress and harm because I couldn’t stop and say ‘there is something wrong with you, get help’ or ‘quit,’ which is what I should have done.”

Iran-born Ghahraman moved to New Zealand as a child with her family when they were granted political asylum.

After studying law, she became a United Nations human rights lawyer, working on international criminal tribunals before entering parliament in 2017.

Former Green Party co-leader James Shaw previously said Ghahraman had suffered “continuous threats” since the day she entered parliament and that the pressure had intensified before her offences.

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