Green Party MP Keith Locke welcomes the Court of Appeal’s decision upholding bail to a jailed Iranian Christian, and says Parliament should delete a provision in the Immigration Bill that allows indefinite detention.
Iranian Thomas Yadegary, a Christian convert from Islam issued with a deportation order, was imprisoned for nearly two and a half years on remand in Mt Eden Prison after he refused to sign an application for an Iranian passport.
“It is appalling that New Zealand has jailed Christian converts like Thomas Yadegary for long periods, when their only crime has been not to sign papers which would see them returned to persecution in Iran,” Mr Locke, the Party’s Immigration Spokesperson, says.
“The Court of Appeal judges were right that to extend the 29-month imprisonment was unreasonable in the circumstances, thus justifying Mr Yadegary’s release on bail.
“Unfortunately, the Immigration Bill currently before Parliament has clauses which tie the hands of the judges in future bail applications. Clauses 271 and 285 prohibit the granting of bail to deportees who are guilty of some ‘inaction’ – such as not signing Iranian passport documents – and judges may not take as an ‘exceptional circumstance’ for their release the period of time that the person has already been detained.
“This provision for indefinite detention is repugnant in a democratic society, and contravenes common law principles that a person’s imprisonment cannot be unreasonable, or out of proportion to its purpose.
“People such as Thomas Yadegary will now be presented with a Hobson’s choice of either indefinite detention in New Zealand, or signing the papers which would see them returned to Iranian persecution. Conversion from Islam, or apostasy, is a capital crime under a bill now before the Iranian Parliament.”