New Zealand immigration officials are being accused of giving preferential treatment to homosexual refugees, after a Catholic Iranian man was denied asylum while another Iranian man who had previously been denied was accepted once he said he was gay.
Both men face a potential death penalty if they are forced to return to Iran.
The New Zealand Herald reported earlier today on accusations of hypocrisy from supporters of Thomas Yadegary, a Muslim who converted to Catholicism after moving to New Zealand in 2004.
Yadegary was arrested in November 2004 and has been held in custody without charge ever since. Yadegary's application for refugee status was rejected by the immigration board, despite his plea that as a Muslim convert to Christianity he would face a potential death penalty if he returned to Iran. He has refused to sign the travel documents which would see him deported.
Immigration authorities accepted the refugee application of Iranian Ahmad Tahooni, however, despite his admission that he lied on an earlier application. Mr. Tahooni, 39, came to New Zealand in 2000 and requested asylum on the grounds that he had participated in student political demonstrations while in Iran, which could result in his persecution if he returned.
His application was denied by the Refugee Status Appeals Authority, and a following appeal was also denied once it became known that he had lied about participating in student demonstrations.
However, when he said he was gay and afraid of persecution for his homosexuality if he should return to Iran, his request for asylum was granted — homosexual activity could lead to a death penalty in Iran.
Father Peter Murnane, a Dominican priest assisting Mr. Yadegary in his case, said that while he was not addressing the issue of Mr. Tahooni's sexuality, he felt the immigration authorities were operating under a double standard.