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Death fears over NZ plans to deport Iranian Catholic

An Iranian-born Catholic convert imprisoned in New Zealand after his application for asylum was rejected faces indefinite detention over his refusal to apply for a new passport that would enable authorities to deport him to Iran where the law punishes conversion with death.

The New Zealand Herald reports that Hossein Yadegary, 37, has been in Auckland Central Remand Prison since November 2004, waiting for Associate Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove to decide his appeal against expulsion.

Mr Cosgrove has finally decided not to intervene. But Mr Yadegary - and another Iranian Christian who has been in jail for 28 months - cannot be deported until they sign applications for Iranian passports.

The men refuse to do so and face indefinite detention as a result.

Global Peace and Justice Auckland spokesman John Minto said the treatment of the Christians was "our own little Guantanamo Bay right here in the heart of Mt Eden".

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, also said yesterday that he was "very opposed" to keeping Mr Yadegary in jail. He said he had been a "model citizen".

Mr Yadegary's lawyer, Isabel Chorao, is considering a legal challenge to his indefinite detention through a writ of habeus corpus, a 900-year-old provision in English law against "arbitrary or unlawful" detention.

She said immigration laws allowed the Government to jail Mr Yadegary because his claim for refugee status had been rejected, so he was in New Zealand illegally.

"My view is that that allows him to be held in prison so he can be put on the next aircraft - but that doesn't mean that they can hold him there for the rest of his life," she said.

Mr Cosgrove declined to elaborate on his decision not to intervene.

Mr Yadegary told the Refugee Status Appeal Authority that he fled from Iran in August 1993 after getting a letter telling him to report to the authorities.

He claimed refugee status when he arrived in New Zealand two months later. The Immigration Service rejected his claim in 1996, and the appeal authority upheld that decision at three subsequent appeals, saying he was unlikely to face any real persecution if he returned.

He attended English classes at a Catholic church and converted to Catholicism there in August 1997.

Fr Peter Murnane, who has visited him in jail for the past two years, said his conversion was "totally genuine".

Another Iranian-born Christian convert who last visited him on Friday, hospital interpreter Homeira Madani, said a Muslim who converted to another religion could be punished by death in Iranian law.

According to a Radio New Zealand report friends of Mr Yadegary say that two other Iranians who converted to Christianity were executed in Iran in August.

Iranians face an indefinite stay in jail (New Zealand Herald, 11/10/06)
Catholic Iranian Fears Execution If Sent Home (Playfuls, 10/10/06)

Mercy nun sounds alarm on deportation of Christian Iranian (CathNews, 18/10/04)
Edmund Rice Centre confirms 39 more deportations to danger (CathNews, 4/10/06)


11 Oct 2006