“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
Canberra ACT 2600
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
PO Box 6022
House of Representatives
Canberra ACT 2600
Please include your full name and contact details.