by Marie Sanson
A RESPECTED Muslim cleric has been denied permission to visit his sick father in Iran because he has been told he is a security risk – but ASlO will not say why.
Sheik Mansour Leghaei from Iran, who heads the Imam Husian Islamic Centre in Earlwood and chairs an inter-faith forum, is desperate to see his father, whom he has not been allowed to visit for eight years.
“His heart is enlarged and he needs an operation,” Sheik Leghaei said.
He has become very disturbed because for many years I have been saying I will be coming to see you but it hasn’t happened.
“He is very much disappointed and missing me. I am deprived of visiting my parents.”
Sheik Leghaei, who has a wife and four children in Sydney has been trying to get permanent residency for the past 14 years.
In 1997 ASIO told him he was a security threat, but the security organisation was legally entitled to hold back the evidence it had.
“Even the court doesn’t know what the problem is. Always they say for security, it’s classified information. We can’t discuss it,” he said.
“What can I do? I’m just waiting for the Government to make up its mind.”
Father Dave Smith from Holy Trinity Church in Dulwich Hill has been a staunch supporter of Sheikh Leghaei for many years.
“He is one of them most gentle men I know and he is one of my best friends. I loathe the thought of losing him.” Father Smith said.
“He is just a sweet human being. His heart is in the community – we’re working with a lot of the same kids.”
Years of frustration
- 1994 Sheik Mansour Leghaei arrives in Australia on a temporary business visa.
- 1995 to 1999 ASlO interviews him eight times, Sheik Leghaei suspects they want to cultivate him as an informant.’
- November 1995 he is granted a temporary visa as a multilingual religious worker.
- November 1996 he is refused permanent residency on the basis of an ASIO security assessment. Sheik Leghaei has 86 letters of support, including from Grayndler MP Anthony Albanese and then attorney-general Robert McClelland. An anonymous letter accusing him of spying for Iran is sent to the Migration Independent Review Office.
- 1999-2002 ASIO conducts several reviews of his security assessment but will not change it
- 2002 Immigration minister Phillip Ruddock rules that the adverse security assessment cannot be reviewed.
- November 2007 a Federal Court decides national security concerns outweigh Sheik Leghaei’s right to procedural fairness.
- December 2007 600 people turn up for a public meeting in support of the sheik.
- July 2009 Sheik Leghaei wants to visit his sick father in Iran but cannot get a visa.
A Department of Immigration spokesman said the case was “still undergoing processes under the Migration Act”, but he would not say what these processes were and would not comment further.
Professor of Public Law at Sydney University Mary Crock said that justice was impossible without knowing the case to answer.
“Quite often if and when it does come out there’s really no substance to it,” Prof Crock said,
“There’s a pervasive problem with security assessments in Australia: they take forever and no one ever knows what the hell is going on.”
Cases like the sheik’s often became “hugely political” and decision makers were unaccountable, Prof Crock said. “Muslim people have a lot of trouble getting justice at the moment,” she said. A 1999 law introduced by the Howard government shifted the onus of proof from the government having to prove a person was of bad character to the person having to show they were not. “but if someone says they’re a bad character there’s a presumption that they are a bad character, ” Prof Crock said.