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Justice Denied to Shaikh Mansour Leghaei

“For those who’ve come across the seas, We’ve boundless plains to share. With courage let us all combine, To advance Australia fair…” is an epilogue from the Australian national anthem, which may as well be omitted.

Fourteen years on, Shaikh Mansour Leghaei is still being denied the basic human right to natural justice. Since 1996, the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) has labeled him as a threat to national security, but to date, it has failed – in fact, refused – to provide the slightest bit of evidence to support this claim. ASIO insists he is an Iranian ‘operative’ and has knowledge of a French terrorist organisation by the name of Ahlul Bait. Based on such entirely groundless allegations, Shaikh Leghaei’s final application to remain in Australia has now been rejected, his bridging visa cancelled, and he has been given 28 days to leave the country.

Shaikh Leghaei applied for permanent Australian residency in 1995. His application was initially rejected by ASIO based on the translation of parts of his university notes on the meanings of Jihad – their original reason for marking him the apparent ‘risk to national security’. In 2002, ASIO conceded that its translation was flawed (later found to be deliberately mistranslated) and decided to withdraw its claim.

Despite the fabricated evidence, the allegations did not end there. Next, Shaikh Leghaei was formally issued with two adverse security assessments, but for ‘security reasons’, the charges against him could no longer be disclosed. Amazingly, he was refused to be told the crimes he had supposedly committed. He appealed to the Federal and High courts for the right to be given a hearing, only to be dismissed by both; he was told that because he is not a citizen of Australia, his legal procedures do not require basic fairness!

“The courts said that since I can’t be briefed about the allegations against me, I can’t defend myself, and if I can’t defend myself, there was no point in wasting the time of the court,” Shaikh said. The accused is charged with allegations but is not told why. He will consequently have no basis to defend himself, and therefore the hearing is dismissed – how convenient.

It is no wonder Father Dave Smith, Parish Priest of Holy Trinity Dulwich Hill, said that the treatment of Shaikh Leghaei has been nothing short of outrageous. He went on to say, “[His] appeal was not over whether he is a decent citizen or not. It was simply over a point of law – i.e. whether he was entitled to a fair trial – and the answer he’s been given is that because he is not an Australian citizen, he is not entitled to a fair trial! This seems simply monstrous to me, and something more appropriate to Nazi Germany than 21st century Australia! Mansour is Iranian. Because he is Iranian, he is apparently not entitled to a fair trial!”

It is sad to know that such politically motivated and baseless allegations carry merit in a land allegedly committed to freedom, justice, and truth. Shaikh Leghaei’s case has brought to light the serious existence of a greater risk within the Australian justice system. We have security agencies like ASIO that run with no accountability and no transparency, all activities sheltered under their banner of “national security”. They can target, deport, or jail anyone without a fair and open trial. Whatever happened to the principles of natural justice and procedural fairness? It is only logical that in any system of government, the accused are entitled to know what accusations are laid against them. However, this being conditional upon the citizenship of individuals has truly and sadly reflected upon the true status of non-citizens in our legal system and the recognition of their basic human rights.

The Migration Review Tribunal (MRT), the Department of Immigration, and the High Court Judge had all requested ASIO for the information causing concern but were denied. In effect, as long as the Head of ASIO states he has such information, it has no obligation to justify its security assessments to anyone, and Shaikh Leghaei’s application for residency cannot be approved.

During the recent hearing that Shaikh Leghaei was finally allowed, he argued that little weight should be given to ASIO’s security assessment, as the intelligence agency had refused to provide the reasons underpinning it. The court’s only response was that it lacks the authority to overrule or even examine ASIO’s judgment. As a result, Shaikh now faces imminent deportation.

Brief background of Shaikh Mansour Leghaei

Shaikh Leghai has studied under some of the most prominent teachers of the Islamic seminary in Qom, including Ayatollah Nasir Makarem Shirazi, Ayatollah Wahid Khorasani, Ayatollah Hasanzadeh Amuli, Ayatollah Javadi Amuli, and the late Ayatollah Jawad Tabrizi. Shaikh Leghaei has been residing in Australia since 1994 with his wife and four children, two of whom are Australian citizens, and one was born in Australia. He has been the Religious Director of Imam Husain Islamic Centre in Sydney since its establishment in 1997 and is also the founder of eHawza, the only online Islamic seminary operating in Australia.

Throughout his time in Australia, Shaikh Leghaei has worked tirelessly to serve the community and build mutual understanding and respect among the various ethnic and religious communities of Australian society. He has received broad support from across the nation from Muslims and non-Muslims alike, including representatives of the indigenous community. Having worked closely with Christian churches, he has also been involved in fundraising for institutes such as the Breast Cancer Foundation, inviting the Salvation Army and churches to multi-faith evenings, and organising barbeques with the native people of Australia.

Federal Attorney General Robert McClelland wrote two character references in 1997 in favor of Shaikh Leghaei, one of them just months after learning that ASIO had rejected Shaikh’s residency application based on national security issues. Describing him as an asset to the Australian and Muslim communities, Mr. McClelland said he was “most surprised to learn that Shaikh Leghaei’s application had been rejected on the failure to satisfy part 4002 of Schedule 4 of the Migration Regulations, that is, the public interest criteria”. He has since been targeted for his support by those in opposition to Shaikh Leghaei.

In the words of Father Dave, “Our community will be much poorer without Shaikh Mansour. He is a bridge-builder between our different ethnic and religious communities and a true man of peace.”

What You Can Do to Help

Write to the Australian Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, appealing to him to use his discretionary power to allow Shaikh Leghaei to stay in the country:

Senator the Hon Christopher Evans
Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Email: senator.evans@aph.gov.au
Fax: +618 9481 4244

Write to the Attorney General to show your support and call for accountability, procedural fairness, and justice for the re-consideration of Shaikh Leghaei’s case:

The Hon Robert McClelland MP
Attorney General
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Parliament House
Canberra ACT 2600
Email: attorney@ag.gov.au

Please include your full name and contact details.

About Farah Masood

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  • Ali O

    Alhamdulilah, they have now reached 1000 letters!

  • mo

    This story proves that Australia is not a democracy, but a hypocrisy!
    It claims to be a proponent of justice and rule of law, yet when convenient, it tramples over basic human rights when convenient.

    This is a consistent theme among the so-called western “democracies.”

  • haidar

    salams to all brothers and sister, i agree with Mo, there is obvious double standards here

  • Mohsin

    Let him stay in the country please

  • Father Dave Smith

    Thank you for helping to raise awareness about this injustice. Perhaps if the international spotlight is shined on our country our leaders will be more inclined to give this good man justice.

  • Jaafer

    If you say that the Sheikh is facing eminent deportation, then what good can the letter do? Is it possible to reverse the decision? And if ASIO is ultimately responsbile, then how can the minister reverse it?

  • zawar shah

    During my 30 years in Austalia, I have seen many cases which go in front of the
    courts and decided.People are happy even their relatives are put in the jail. Why not the asio bring the sheikh into the court, prove the allegations and deport him or punish him as the lae requires

  • fuzz

    Bro, if there exists a rule of law that clearly defies justice, should we silently accept it or speak out and do what we can to fight it (as hopeless as the situation may seem)?

  • Jaafer

    All I’m saying is: how likely is it that the decision is reversed? Also, what will his congregation do if he’s deported?

  • Farah

    Re: Jaafer. One of the criteria a person must meet in applying for permanent residency is that the applicant “is not assessed by the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO) to be directly or indirectly a risk to security, within the meaning of section 4 of the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act 1979” (Public Interest Criterion 4002). So as long as this is the case, Shaikh cannot be granted permanent residency.

    Some good news though – 2 days ago Shaikh was granted another bridging visa (valid for one month only) and is thus no longer being deported this Friday, alhumdulillah.

    See news article: http://www.news.com.au/national/sheik-leghaei-wins-another-months-visa-as-government-reviews-his-case/story-e6frfkvr-1225841658579

    ‘The outcome of his case is likely to depend on whether the Government decides to hold an administrative review into a controversial ASIO security assessment that suggested he might be involved in “acts of foreign interference”. (let’s pray this happens, iA)

    ‘The Immigration Department has the power to review Dr Leghaei’s case if it receives information not previously before the migration review tribunal.

    ‘Immigration Minister Chris Evans can intervene in Dr Leghaei’s case on humanitarian grounds, and the other option available to the Government is a confidential administrative review of his case.’

    Re: Father Dave Smith – Thank you for your overwhelming support throughout Shaikh Leghaei’s case. May God bless you.

  • Mal Shah

    Our Shiah faith teaches us to respect the Law of the Land. Shaikh Leghaei who is a dedicated leader of such a faith will always respect Australian Law. Those who wants him out should make an effort to be familiar with Shiah Law and be confident that personality of such calibre will always be law abiding. To boot him out is a travesty of natural justice and a slur on our Democratic values.