Earlier in the month Thomas Yadegary was freed from Mount Eden Prison after a judge ruled that his detention had become arbitrary and could no longer serve its purpose. But Thomas Yadegary wasn't alone. Last year, an OIA request revealed that there were six people who had been detained for more than a year for immigration purposes. And today we've learned about another one of them: Ali Reza Panah.
Panah's case is similar to Yadegary's: he left Iran in 2000, and converted to Christianity in Korea before travelling to New Zealand and applying for refugee status. That application has been denied and his appeals exhausted, and he has been detained for the last eighteen months in an effort to get him to sign an Iranian passport application.
The RSAA does not believe that Panah faces a genuine threat of persecution in Iran. They are wrong. According to the US State Department's 2006 International Religious Freedom Country Report for Iran, Iran has the death penalty for apostasy, and converts are subject to arrest, torture, and extrajudicial murder. Most tellingly, the New Zealand government has demanded Panah sign an indemnity saying that if he is subsequently persecuted in Iran, it is not the fault of the New Zealand government - hardly the action of people who believe he faces no danger.
Meanwhile, there is the other issue: we have kept a man in jail for eighteen months now because he will not sign his own death warrant, and show every sign of keeping him there indefinitely. This is an affront to our deepest values. Throwing people in jail without trial and keeping them there forever is the sort of thing practiced by absolute monarchs, third-world despots, or the Americans in their Caribbean gulag in Guantanamo - not by our New Zealand.