NZ Green Party Lawmaker Quits After Shoplifting Allegations

(Bloomberg) -- New Zealand Green Party parliamentarian Golriz Ghahraman has resigned citing mental health issues following shoplifting allegations.

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“It is clear to me that my mental health is being badly affected by the stresses relating to my work,” she said in a statement Tuesday in Wellington. “This has led me to act in ways that are completely out of character. I take full responsibility for my actions which I deeply regret.”

Ghahraman said resigning would allow her to focus on her recovery.

Ghahraman made history as the first ever refugee to be sworn in as a member of parliament in 2017, having arrived in New Zealand as a child asylum seeker with her family from Iran. She studied at Oxford University and was a lawyer in New Zealand focusing on human rights and constitutional issues before starting a career in politics.

The Green Party is in opposition. Ghahraman is a list member of parliament, so her resignation doesn’t affect the number of seats the party holds.

Local media have reported that Ghahraman has been linked to as many as three alleged shoplifting incidents at high-end shops in Auckland and Wellington. She was stood down from her portfolio responsibilities when the first reports emerged last week. Police are investigating the complaints.

“People should, rightly, expect the highest standards of behavior from their elected representatives,” she said. “I fell short. I’m sorry. It’s not a behavior I can explain because it’s not rational in any way, and after medical evaluation, I understand I’m not well.”

The statement went on to say her mental health professional said her recent behavior is consistent with “events giving rise to extreme stress response, and relating to previously unrecognized trauma.”

Ghahraman has been the leading voice in parliament for human rights, truly independent foreign policy, and electoral reform for six years, Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson said in a statement.

“It is clear to us that Ms Ghahraman is in a state of extreme distress,” they said. “She has taken responsibility and apologized. We support the decision she has made to resign.”

(Updates with party leaders’ comment in eighth paragraph)

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