Priest accuses NZ Govt over refugee double standard

Dominican priest, Fr Peter Murnane has accused the New Zealand government of double standards after a Catholic Iranian man was denied asylum while an Iranian gay man facing similar threat of persecution was accepted as a refugee.

The New Zealand Herald reports that supporters of the Iranian Catholic man denied asylum say that immigration authorities are hypocritical for letting another Iranian stay because of his sexuality.

Ahmad Tahooni is gay, but when he arrived in New Zealand in 2000 he sought asylum on the grounds that he had been involved in student demonstrations in Iran and could face persecution if he returned.

The Refugee Status Appeals Authority denied him asylum and rejected a subsequent appeal after he admitted he had lied about his political activities.

In his second appeal Mr Tahooni, 39, said he was gay and feared returning to Iran, where homosexual activity is punishable by death. In December the authority found in his favour.

Thomas Yadegary, also Iranian, moved to New Zealand in 1994 and converted to Catholicism. He was arrested in November 2004 and his application for refugee status was rejected. He has since been held in custody without charge.

Mr Yadegary says Muslims who convert to Christianity face a potential death penalty in Iran, and he has refused to sign travel documents which would allow him to be deported.

Auckland Dominican priest Fr Peter Murnane, who has campaigned for Mr Yadegary's release, said yesterday that while he was not taking issue with Mr Tahooni's sexuality he felt the immigration authorities were using a double standard.

"What kind of hypocritical double standard is in place, among this country's immigration officials", ask Auckland Catholic priest, Fr Peter Murnane.

"They allow a 'flamboyant homosexual who originally lied to them' according to news reports, to remain here for his safety yet deny the same privilege to a man whom they have imprisoned for over two years who, because he has converted to Catholicism, also fears for his safety," Fr Murnane told Scoop.

"To allow Ahmad Tahooni to stay in New Zealand is a slap in the face for fellow Iranian asylum seeker Thomas Yadegary," Fr Murnane said.

Upset as gay Iranian wins asylum but Catholic fails (New Zealand Herald, 6/2/07)
Catholic Church Questions Govt's Double Standard (Scoop, 5/2/07)

7 Feb 2007