Authorities in New Zealand have prohibited famed U.S. prizefighter Mike Tyson from entering the country owing to his rape conviction from the early 1990s.
Tyson, who has never visited New Zealand before, had earlier received a visa to speak at an event in Auckland next month, as well as perform his one-man Broadway show.
However, following a flurry of anger and outrage from women’s rights activists in the country, Kate Wilkinson, New Zealand’s Associate Immigration Minister, announced on Wednesday that she revoked the former heavyweight champ’s visa.
The Prime Minister John Key also expressed his opposition to Tyson’s visit, although he denied putting any pressure on Wilkinson.
New Zealand law bans the entry of anyone who has served five or more years in jail, subject to a special waiver. (Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison in March 1992 for the rape of a beauty pageant contestant, although he was released from jail after serving just three years.)
Tyson angrily told Television New Zealand: "I didn't do the crime [rape], I was set up, I don't care what people say. I didn't do that f_king crime.”
Tyson reportedly wanted to meet with New Zealand’s Maori people, since his new facial tattoos were inspired by their culture.
Tyson’s promoter, Max Markson, said he will continue to battle for his client’s right to visit New Zealand, according to local media, noting that Tyson has toured 15 other nations recently, without any problems.
“I still hope to bring him to New Zealand,” Markson told New Zealand media. “I sincerely hope the New Zealand Government will reconsider and allow him into the country. It will be a tragedy if the people of New Zealand couldn't have the opportunity to see the show he has just done for two weeks on Broadway, directed by Spike Lee. His story is one that is inspirational; how he has risen to the top of his sport, then obviously had enormous lows in his career and then has re-invented himself again."
The Associated Press reported that Australia, where Tyson is also scheduled to visit, may also cancel his visa.
The imminent arrival of a convicted rapist comes at a particularly sensitive time in Australia, which has just dealt with the trauma of a high-profile rape and murder of an Irish woman named Jill Meagher.
Markson, who is based in Australia, said he was confident that Australia immigration would allow Tyson into the country.
“He'll only be in the country for 20 hours, I don't think he's a danger to anybody, and thousands of people want to see him," Markson said.
“He served his time twenty years ago, he's a changed man, he's coming with his wife and two children under four. I don't think he's a danger to our society.”