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Lorenzo Ervin is seeking documentation to support claims for the Department of Immigration

PETER THOMPSON: Now, let's talk about this really oddball cat and mouse game between Lorenzo Ervin and the Immigration Department which has been going on. It remains unclear this morning how much longer the African American civil rights activist, as he styles himself, Lorenzo Ervin, has to answer questions being sent to him by the Immigration Department. Ervin was detained last week and threatened with deportation - in fact more than that, they were about to turf him out after Amanda Vanstone, the Acting Immigration Minister, attacked his good character. But the High Court saved the day for him by saying natural justice hadn't been afforded to him in this case.

Now, the next step is a series of official questions had to be answered for his national speaking tour to continue. There was a deadline of four o'clock yesterday for that; it passed without incident, despite the fact that only eight of the Immigration Department's 14 questions had been answered. Ervin's Brisbane-based lawyers are now requesting more time. They say they've been given until four o'clock today to provide the documentation which is required from the US, but the Immigration Minister's office says it hasn't yet made a decision in relation to that request and, at this point, the matter is still being considered. Either way, it looks like the former Black Panther will continue his Australian visit for a time yet, as Tim Latham reports from Brisbane.

TIM LATHAM: Yesterday was day 12 of the so-called Black Panther saga and D-day for Lorenzo Ervin and the Immigration Department's questionnaire. Based on the Government's assertion that the convicted hijacker is not of good character, the Department of Immigration asked Ervin to answer a series of character-probing questions.

LORENZO ERVIN: We got the Federal Government to give me a list of questions which have to be answered extensively and telling that I've got to come up with answers to them within a 24-hour period, essentially a 24-hour period. Many of the questions require documentation and that documentation has to come from the United States and, in fact, the United States Government, in many instances. Of course, we're trying to comply. We've contacted my personal attorneys in America, including one of the attorneys that represented me in the action to get my citizenship restored, my civil rights restored in America. But the reality is we can't get all these documents in time.

TIM LATHAM: While Lorenzo Ervin says he's only had 24 hours to reply to the Immigration Department, his lawyers actually received the questions on Monday afternoon, giving them a full 48 hours to reply. The problem was the lawyers couldn't get in touch with Mr Ervin until he returned back from his speech in Lismore on Tuesday morning.

Most of the 14 questions sent to Lorenzo Ervin are more true or false statements than questions as such. All deal with specific matters regarding his past, mostly his political affiliations and his criminal record. Question seven deals with the charge of aggravated assault.

LORENZO ERVIN: It's true, in 1989, I was charged with an incident where my live-in girlfriend had filed a complaint against me for aggravated assault and it went to court, and at the court she admitted that, you know, the incident never happened and they charged her with filing a false police report. But the strange thing is, though, they're talking about some things related to political beliefs that have nothing to do with good character - not asking what my religion is or anything like that, but you know, just making statements and asking you to agree with these statements: you were an activist in 1969 or you were an activist in 1960, you fought the Ku Klux Klan, you did this, you did ... yes, well, I'll be happy to say that - certainly I fought the Ku Klux Klan - and things of that nature. But some things require documentation.

TIM LATHAM: Of the 14 Immigration Department questions, Ervin sent replies to eight of them yesterday afternoon, including a denial that he was ever a member of the international group, Anarchist Black Cross. But the most crucial question of the six that remain unanswered deals with Lorenzo Ervin's claim to some form of executive clemency. He served 14 years in a US prison for a 1969 hijacking of a plane to Cuba. The problem for Lorenzo Ervin is the US Justice Department says it has no record of any executive clemency granted. It's this document that Ervin needs the most. It's fundamental to his defence of his good character. His lawyers can only hope the paperwork turns up soon.

Lorenzo Ervin is due to speak tomorrow night at the settlement in the Sydney suburb of Redfern.

PETER THOMPSON: Tim Latham reporting there. I wonder where that document is. I wonder, also, how much this whole farce is costing in government time and court time. I suppose it keeps us all employed.