Iranian cleric Dr Mansour Leghaei is being removed from Australia after being resident here for 16 years. Immigration minister Chris Evans has refused to allow Leghaei to stay, following an adverse security assessment by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO).
Leghaei has committed no crime, incited no hatred and is the father of one of Australia's “working families” — that demographic otherwise loved by the Australian government. As he is not an Australian citizen, he is unable to challenge ASIO's security assessment.
He has no idea of the allegations against him, except for the allegation of having taken part in “foreign interference”.
In effect, he has been found guilty of unknown offences.
Laghaei's family consists of his wife, Marzieh, and their four children. As Laghaei must leave before the end of June, the order to leave Australia would split the family if Marzieh and the children stayed. But Laghaei has indicated that the family would stay together, in effect meaning an deportation for the whole family.
The deportation order follows a November 2007 request by the immigration department for him to "voluntarily deport"..
In the May 18 Australian, Leghaei said: "I have never and I will never be any risk to any individual. I know myself I don’t have any links to any political parties, Iranian parties or any other parties. I am not a political person.”
Laghaei's lawyer, Ben Saul, has asked the Australian government to delay his client’s removal until the completion of an investigation by the United Nations into possible violations of international law.
On April 21, the UN Human Rights Committee asked Australia not to remove Laghaei until it could investigate his case further.
According to the Australian, an immigration department spokesperson said, despite the UN investigation, “it is the government's expectation that Dr Leghaei will now comply with the minister's decision and depart Australia of his own accord”.
In the US, Britain and Europe, people who are the subject of an adverse security assessment are at least given the outline of the case against them, so explanations can be given to correct mistakes or confusions relating to the case against them, or even to dispel false allegations given by hostile governments.
But, as Saul explained, Laghaei has simply received "a letter accusing him of being a national security risk and he has got no basis on which to assess that claim”, said the Australian.
Laghaei arrived in Australia on a temporary business visa. His application for permanent residency was rejected on ASIO advice in 1997. He has been fighting ASIO since.
Although the security assessment of Laghaei is secret, it apparently rests on a notebook taken from him when he returned to Australia from an overseas trip in 1996.
It apparently shows details on “spying” (details of the assessment not disclosed) and “jihad” — a word used by international terrorists, but also a word constituting a central part of Islamic theology.
Laghaei is, after all, a cleric. And an Iranian spy is likely to be better trained than to have notes on “spying” in their luggage.
He appealed to the Federal Court in 2005, but it ruled national security considerations overruled any notion of procedural fairness or natural justice.
Last week, the High Court declined an application for him to appeal against the decision. Laghaei said that because he had four dependants who were Australian residents, including one child who was born in Australia, he could not be forcibly deported.
Legal experts disagreed, saying the Immigration Act trumped the Family Court Act.
This led the Australian government solicitor, acting for ASIO, to ask Laghaei to voluntarily leave the country.
The case against Laghaei is similar the forced removal of Scott Parkin from Australia. Parkin, a US peace activist, was arrested on a Melbourne street in 2005 on the way to an anti-war meeting.
Like Laghaei, Parkin was removed with no evidence or specific allegations being given. His attempts to find out the reason for his removal are still worming their way through the courts, with an anticipated trial due in 2012.
Other cases in which migration law has been used for political motives include the Indian doctor Mohamed Haneef and many refugee cases.
By using immigration law to silence people who are politically embarrassing, Australia is adopting a “whole of government” approach to silence people it does not agree with.