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GPJA: Thomas Yadegary released after 2 yrs 5m

Thomas Yadegary released after 2 years 5 months detention in Mt Eden prison

GPJA is delighted for Thomas Yadegary that he has been released from Mt Eden prison at lunchtime today after almost two and a half years of detention without trial.

Thomas was released after a High Court decision was made late yesterday which resulted from a judicial review application heard in December. This judicial review was of an earlier District Court decision to keep Thomas incarcerated.

The High Court are refusing release of the decision itself because government lawyers have said they may apply for its suppression.

It would be good for the government to come clean and process Thomas as an immigrant with skills as a chef which are badly needed in the community.

The decision today brings into focus the appalling government policies which kept an innocent man behind bars here for so long.

New Zealand is not a CIA rendering facility, a gulag in Stalinist Russia or Guantanemo Bay. This is New Zealand where we are supposed to give people a fair go.


Thomas is an Iranian who has been in detention without trial for the past 29 months in Auckland’s Mt Eden prison. He arrived in New Zealand in 1993 as a political asylum seeker. While waiting for his case to be considered he studied English and trained as a chef working in top Auckland hotels. He worked hard, paid taxes, saved money, made lots of friends and became a Catholic. He even had his photo taken with Bill Clinton on one of Clinton’s visits to New Zealand. His application was turned down but he appealed at each opportunity hoping and praying he would be successful. All appeals failed however and on 1 November 2004 he was detained and taken to Mt Eden prison to await deportation.

Before the government could deport him they required him to apply for a passport. Thomas refused because he would be in grave danger should he return there.

Amnesty International examined his case and agreed it was unsafe for Thomas to return. But the government kept pressuring him with a “hostage detention” to try and force him to sign.

He was effectively kept hostage in prison – to be released only if he agreed to be deported to Iran! Every 28 days he came before the District Court where Immigration Ministry lawyers argued vigorously for his ongoing detention, because he was “uncooperative” and the judges duly rubber-stamp his on-going incarceration. This is the type of human rights abuse New Zealand governments of all persuasions have condemned in many countries around the world over many years.

In his various appeals Thomas has had the strong support of a wide circle of friends and his Christian community which includes support from his Catholic bishop. Although I have never met him I have no reason to believe he is anything but the honest, hard-working, fun-loving person most of us would be delighted to have as a next-door neighbour.

Thomas has been supported by most MPs The Green Party, Maori Party, National, United Future as well as groups like GPJA, Amnesty International, the Catholic Bishops etc.

In another irony, MP David Cunliffe wrote a glowing letter of support for Thomas and said he would do all he could to support him. Cunliffe himself is now the Minister of Immigration and deaf to all appeals on Thomas’s behalf. Such is the corrupting influence of expedient politics on moral behaviour.

Just two weeks ago the Associate Minister of Immigration, Clayton Cosgrove, rejected the latest appeal for Thomas’s release.



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