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UK Court demolishes Iranian-Baha'i couple's claims against Iran: Say they carried out religious teaching activities against the wishes of Govt.

The hearing was for granting asylum to an Iranian Bahai couple by UK state Department. The case was heard at Bradford on 27 April 2006 Before SENIOR IMMIGRATION JUDGE Mr. LANE , Mr.ROBERTS and Mr. MACDONALD

The Iranian Bahai couple was the appellant and the secretary of State Home department (UK) was the respondent.

The case is an eyeopener against Bahai propaganda on alleged atrocities in Iran. The learnt judge have demolished all appeals of the Bahai couple against the government of Iran. The comments of the learned judges would be guidance to other judiciaries, in times to come, for realizing the truth.

The Case

The appellant, a citizen of Iran born on 29 August 1953, entered the United Kingdom on 23 April 2005 using a twelve-month visitor’s multi-visa, which was valid from 14 February 2005 to 14 February 2006. He was accompanied by his wife. On 10 October 2005, the appellant claimed asylum. On 16 November 2005 the respondent decided (i) to vary the appellant's leave to enter the United Kingdom, so as to terminate that leave, and (ii) that the appellant should be removed to Iran by way of directions. The appellant appealed against that decision on the grounds that his removal from the United Kingdom in consequence of it would breach the United Kingdom’s obligations under the Refugee Convention and would be unlawful under section 6 of the Human Rights Act 1998 as being incompatible with the appellant's rights under the ECHR.

A. Iranian Bahai Claim: Baha’is in Iran face substantial discrimination, which extends beyond the purely religious field to such matters as education, work, ownership of property and access to justice.

Tribunal's assessment:

The evidence does not, however, show that the nature and prevalence of this discrimination is of such intensity and generality as to amount to persecution for the purposes of the Refugee Convention. It is significant that none of the outside observers who have had cause to consider the situation of Baha’is has formed the conclusion that a person is at real risk of persecution in Iran merely by reason of being a Baha’i. That includes Baha’is who practise their faith. Whilst the use of such language by the couple is understandable, it does not compel a conclusion on the part of this Tribunal that any Iranian Baha’i, practising or not, who makes his or her way to the United Kingdom, should without more investigation be accorded international protection.

B. Iranian Bahai Claim

The appellant Doctor by profession claims to fear persecution in Iran on account of their being Bahais.. The appellant was arrested in 1983 on charges relating to his activities as a Baha’i, and sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court. He was released in 1989, having served some five years eight months of his sentence.

In 1998 the appellant was (again) arrested in connection with his activities as a lecturer at the Baha’i Institute of Higher Education. The appellant was sentenced to ten years imprisonment by the Revolutionary Court. After fourteen months and fourteen days, the appellant was released by the Court of Appeal, which the appellant ascribed in part, to international pressure on Iran to improve the treatment of Baha’is.

In July 2004 the appellant was arrested at home whilst hosting a devotional meeting involving a form of Baha’i teaching developed by an organisation known as the Ruhi Institute. Ruhi teaching enables non-Baha’i people to become familiar with the Baha’i faith. One of those present at the devotional meeting was a Muslim who had informally converted to the Baha’i faith. The appellant's wife was also arrested and accused of converting Muslims to that faith. The appellant was released on bail after two nights in detention.

Tribunal's assessment :

Putting that matter aside, both the appellant and his wife were able to study and become doctors and, albeit with difficulty, practice their profession in a variety of places in Iran. The confiscation of their home was, we find, most likely to have been an aspect of the authorities’ adverse attention towards the appellant as a result for what they perceived to be his teaching and community activities. The appellants were able to travel abroad and return without significant difficulties. We say so, bearing in mind what the appellant and his wife described as an unpleasant incident at the airport when they returned to Iran in 2001.

C. Iranian Bahai Claim. Bahais are being harassed in Iran, in particular, under the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who was elected in June 2005 and who, it is clear from the evidence, pursued a more conservative and uncompromising set of policies than those of his predecessor.

Tribunal's assessment :

The fact is, nevertheless, that according to the latest reports, relatively few Baha’is are being arrested and imprisoned, considering the overall size (300-350,000) of the Baha’i community in Iran. As we have already noted, even Human Rights Watch, in its 2006 report, goes no further than to opine that Iran’s ethnic and religious minorities ‘are subject to discrimination and, in some cases, persecution’. The express reference to the Baha’is, which follows this quotation, refers to the community continuing ‘to be denied permission to worship or engage in communal affairs in a public manner’. That Baha’is are able to pursue their religious observances in domestic settings is clear. It is many years since they were last permitted in general to worship in public halls and the like. The evidence before us does not show such a flagrant denial of a Baha’i’s freedom of religion as to amount to an effective denial for that right

D. Iranian Bahai Claim : Baha’is are on occasion deprived of their rights to property,

Tribunal's assessment: 

1-The evidence before us does not show that any Baha’i, regardless of his or her circumstances, is at real risk of being deprived of his or her home or business. The evidence before us as to the Iranian state’s attitude towards the recognition of Baha’i marriages is, we have to say, somewhat unclear. On the appellant's own account, and that of his wife, official attitudes appear to fluctuate. Overall, the Tribunal does not find that the evidence discloses such a state of affairs as, when combined with the other matters to which we have referred, can properly lead to the conclusion that a Baha’i is entitled to protection under the Refugee Convention or the ECHR should he or she make such a claim to the authorities in this country.

2- As a consequence of these findings, the Tribunal has considered whether the evidence shows that a particular description or category of Baha’i in Iran is currently at real risk of persecution or other serious ill-treatment or whether the undoubted persecution that certain Baha’is suffer, such as those imprisoned for their faith, is merely random or otherwise so unpredictable as to prevent any particular Baha’i being identified in advance as being at real risk. At the hearing, Mr. De Mello, Mr Leith and Mr Wheatley (all Bahais) sought to emphasize the importance of the information contained at paragraph 25 of Mr. Leith’s statement - There are believed to be 300,000-350,000 Baha'is in Iran. We clearly do not expect the Iranian authorities to prosecute all of them.

E.Iranian Bahai Claim: While interrogating one of the Baha'is arrested 2005, an intelligence agent stated: ‘We have learned how to confront (the Baha'is). We no longer pursue ordinary (Baha'is); we will paralyze your inner core.’ The comment seems to define the current strategy of the Iranian authorities in their latest attempt to undermine the long-term viability of the Baha’i community. The new policy is characterized by identifying and targeting a group of Baha'is who play an ad hoc but vital role in providing communal activity and leadership for the wider community’.

Tribunal's assessment

1- Taking the appellant's account at face value for the moment, he told us that he ceased to work on behalf of the Institute, at their suggestion, after he had been released from his second sentence of imprisonment. His evidence was, however, to the effect that he had nevertheless pursued the promotion of the Baha’i faith by means of the teaching system produced by the Ruhy Institute.

2- The Tribunal has adopted a cautious approach to what is said to have been the comments of the Iranian intelligence agent, as set out in paragraph 25 of Mr. Leith’s report. Although he possesses undoubted considerable knowledge of the position of Baha’is in Iran, Mr. Leith is not (and no doubt would not claim to be) an impartial observer. His job is to foster the interests of his co-religionists in Iran. Furthermore, the comments of the intelligence agent are unsourced. Both Mr. Leith and Mr. Wheatley told us that they were received as part of the ongoing system of contacts and information-gathering operated by the external affairs office of the National Spiritual Assembly for the Baha’is in the United Kingdom.(Unquote - this could imply high level of espionage that faith members indulge)

3- The Tribunal has no reason to doubt that Mr. Leith has, at paragraph 25 of his report, accurately described what he has been told was said to a Baha’i by someone operating within the intelligence community within Iran. The real question is whether the comments are reasonably likely to represent present Iranian government policy or, given the complex nature of the Iranian state security apparatus, the policy of some form of organization that is sponsored or at least condoned by those in power and which is able to act against those Baha’is which are regarded as ‘inner core’.

4- For these reasons the Tribunal is able to place some weight on the comment recorded in paragraph 25 of Mr. Leith’s statement. The fact remains, however, that as matters stand it is only a single comment, from an unnamed individual, whose alleged words have, it seems, not been passed directly to Mr. Leith by the person to whom they were spoken. It would accordingly be going too far to use the statement as the basis of a conclusion that all Baha’is, who comprise, or are regarded by the Iranian state security apparatus as comprising, an “inner core” are as such at current real risk of persecution. On the other hand, we do not consider that the totality of the evidence in this appeal does no more than show that some Baha’is are randomly persecuted and the appellant is a person who happens to have been so persecuted. The appellant has been an active teacher and has suffered previous sentences of imprisonment for what were plainly religious reasons. That is essentially accepted by the respondent. The credibility of the appellant’s claim to be in current well-founded fear was challenged by the respondent at the hearing on the basis that the alleged telephone conversation and other evidence of renewed adverse interest in the appellant by the authorities since he last left Iran were not believable. Whilst not accepting that there is evidence of a concerted policy to take out the inner core of the Baha’i community in Iran, we nevertheless find that, having regard to the current political situation, the background evidence and the evidence of Messrs Leith and Wheatley, shorn of its more rhetorical aspects, provide support for the appellant in assessing the credibility of that part of his claim which was challenged by Mrs. Petterson.

The Tribunal's conclusions may be summarized as follows:-

(a) an Iranian Baha’i is not, as such, at real risk of persecution in Iran;

(b) such a person will, however, be able to demonstrate a well-founded fear if, on the particular facts of the case, he or she is reasonably likely to be targeted by the Iranian authorities (or their agents) for religious reasons. Evidence of past persecution will be of particular relevance in this regard. It is doubtful if a person who has not previously come to the serious adverse attention of the authorities, by reason of his or her teaching or particular organizational or other activities on behalf of the Baja’s community in Iran, will be able, even in the current climate, to show that he or she will be at real risk on return.
Date: 24 April 2006


Image Courtesy : http://www.jcwi.org.uk/2011/09/15/the-real-deal-for-asylum-seekers

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