Catholic Iranian fears execution if sent home

.- The New Zealand government claimed yesterday that it had United Nations approval to deport an Iranian refugee who is refusing to go home because he fears he will be executed for converting from Islam to Christianity.

Thomas (formerly known as Hossein) Yadegary has been held in a New Zealand prison for 23 months awaiting deportation.

According to Deutsche Presse-Agentur, the 37-year-old chef is refusing to sign papers needed to obtain the Iranian passport required to send him home.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur reported that immigration official Mary Anne Thompson said Yadegary's application for asylum had been refused after a fair hearing and he was now legally required to leave the country. She rejected claims that Yadegary would be killed if sent back to his homeland.

Yadegary fled Iran in August 1993, after getting a letter telling him to report to the authorities, and arrived in New Zealand two months later.

He was allowed to work while his application went through the lengthy appeal process. He also attended English classes at an Auckland church and converted to Catholicism in 1997.

According to an interview that was broadcast on Radio New Zealand, two other Iranians who converted to Christianity were executed in Iran in August.

Associate Immigration Minister Clayton Cosgrove told Parliament that Yadegary had failed in seven appeals for asylum in New Zealand and six ministerial representations. Two High Court judicial reviews had confirmed his rejection.

Cosgrove turned down a final appeal for Yadegary to stay in New Zealand last week. 

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