Future Shop clerk faces deportation and execution, says his lawyer

Posted by admin on Oct 12th, 2008

James Weldon. North Shore News. October 12, 2008

A North Vancouver Future Shop employee faces arrest and possible execution if an order for his deportation — which may take place as early as today (Oct. 12) — is carried out. Thirty-year-old Seyed Anari, known locally as Bob Anari, was arrested Thursday right after his bid to stay in Canada as a refugee was declined. Immigration officials plan to hold him in detention until they can put him on a plane to his native Iran, probably before the end of the weekend, said his lawyer, Blake Hobson.

“In 20 years, I’ve never phoned the media,” said Hobson in an interview Thursday. “I believe he will be in serious jeopardy.”

Anari fled Iran eight years ago when he was a first-year university student, said Hobson. Before attending the post-secondary institution, he had been sent to a religious high school by his parents, supporters of the country’s regime. The high school served as a kind of pre-training ground for Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, an arm of the military that has been accused of human rights abuses.

In 1999, a year out of the school, Anari was ordered to attend a political protest at the more liberal University of Tehran and report back about the dissidents involved. Anari refused to identify the students in question, according to Hobson. The Revolutionary Guard turned on him as a result and he fled the country.

Alone, Anari made his way to Germany, where he made a refugee claim. His application took four years to make its way through the system before finally being rejected. Ejected from the country, he traveled to Canada, where he tried again. After another four years or so, Anari’s application has wound its way through the courts and has once more been declined.

The immigration officer who made the call decided Anari was a flight risk, and so had him arrested on the spot. He is now awaiting deportation in a holding cell on Georgia Street.

Hobson has still not been allowed to see the written ruling, but his understanding is the application was denied because of Anari’s involvement with the Revolutionary Guard. The organization’s human rights record has put it on a kind of black list with immigration officials. Even though Anari did not commit any abuses — and in fact left the country in order to avoid doing so — he has been painted with the same brush, said Hobson.

“They never considered his case on the merits,” he said. “They just found he was associated with the group.”

But it is Anari’s opposition to the Guard’s practices that has put his life in danger, said Hobson. Anari is going to arrive at the airport in Tehran with no documentation and with no one to meet him.

“(Canadian immigration officials) get him to the airport in Tehran, push him off the plane and say: ‘See you later.'” said Hobson.

Anari will have to explain to officers there where he’s been for the past eight years and why he left in the first place. It won’t take them long to work out who he is and what he did, said Hobson. The Revolutionary Guard is closely involved with Iran’s immigration system.

“I think he’s going to be arrested when he gets there,” he said. “They may . . . kill the guy.”

On top of this, Hobson believes Anari’s arrest on Thursday might have been the result of a misunderstanding. When the immigration officer involved asked whether Anari would obey the ruling and return to Iran, he apparently responded in line with his lawyer’s advice: he did not want to return to Iran, but that he would nonetheless do so as instructed, said Hobson.

This statement appears to have been interpreted as a refusal to go back to his home country, said Hobson. As a result, Anari has been denied the usual two weeks afforded most refugees to get their affairs in order before deportation. He will have no opportunity to settle matters with his landlord, his bank, his job or his personal connections here, said Hobson.

The lawyer has no way of appealing the arrest or the ruling. Any rejected refugee is allowed to launch a challenge 48 hours after the decision, but because of the long weekend (during which courts are closed), that time elapses on Tuesday and Anari will likely be long gone.

“The way they’ve done it is so underhanded, it’s really not giving him access to argue his case,” said Hobson.

By talking to the media, the lawyer recognizes he is not going to alter Anari’s plight, but he wants to alert the public to what he sees as a miscarriage of justice, he said. “If something does happen, I don’t want him to be a person we just forget about.”

Anari has been a model claimant since his arrival in this country, said Hobson. Of the roughly 200 weekly meetings he was required to attend, he missed or was late for six. In every case, Anari called with an explanation and an apology. He has spent his time working as a sales clerk at Future Shop, and has never been involved in anything illegal.

“He’s a very meek and mild-mannered person,” said Hobson. “I hope to God nothing happens to him and that I’m wrong.”


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