Longtime refugee wins appeal: Morteza Momenzadeh Tameh closes in on permanent residency

Posted by admin on Aug 2nd, 2008

Mary Frances Hill. Vancouver Sun. Saturday, August 02, 2008

After 15 years of living in the city, Morteza (Mori) Momenzadeh Tameh is one step closer to calling Canada his permanent home. Federal Court of Appeal Justice Anne Mactavish concluded the Canada Border Services Agency didn’t have enough relevant information about Tameh’s controversial past in his native Iran before denying him permanent residency status. “There’s been a heavy weight on my shoulders for 15 years,” Tameh said Friday. “I put that weight down the day I heard this decision.” The ruling was dated July 18.

Jailed for five years in his native Iran for his support of the terrorist group Mujahedin E-Khalq — or MEK — he was accepted in Canada as a convention refugee.

Tameh was a cell leader in the group from 1979 to 1982, when it was a political party that advocated for democracy and fielded political candidates.

Then a teenager, Tameh and his friends passed out political pamphlets, helped organize rallies, wrote graffiti and hid pro-democratic supporters in their homes.

But following mass arrests of MEK supporters in Iran, the group struck back with violence.

Mactavish’s rejection of the CBSA decision reopens Tameh’s file for review by Citizenship and Immigration Canada. If the review decision is favourable, Tameh will become a permanent resident of Canada, free to apply for landed immigrant status, which will put him on the path to full-fledged Canadian citizenship.

That day can’t come soon enough for Tameh.

“On the top of my wish list is to see my parents,” he said. “I haven’t seen them for 15 years and they’re really old and not in good health. I want to get a passport and go to Turkey [because it is close to Iran] to see them for the last time.”

The initial report that led to the denial of his permanent-residency status was damning. CBSA president Alain Jolicoeur said in the report that while Tameh had established himself well in Canada, “his strong allegiance to an organization committed to the use of violence to achieve their political goals outweighs any national interest.”

Public Safety Canada then ruled he was “inadmissible to Canada on security grounds” and denied him permanent residency in Canada.

That ruling came despite a review by Citizenship and Immigration Canada that found he posed no threat. The review was completed in August 2001 — one month before the 9/11 attacks. In the resulting tightening of Canadian security measures, Tameh’s file was shelved for many years.

Shane Molyneaux, Tameh’s lawyer, told the Federal Court last month that Tameh had had a low-level, minimal involvement with the MEK as a youth, and that when the MEK turned to violence, he renounced the group.

“I am so negative against the [MEK],” said Tameh. “They ruined my life.”

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