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Swiss can deport Iranian Christian, says European Court

Published on 19/12/2017

An Iranian asylum seeker who converted to Christianity in Switzerland can be sent back to Iran, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. The Strasbourg-based court deemed that the security of the 35-year-old man would not be in danger if he were sent back to his native country.

Thedecision on Tuesday goes in favour of the Swiss authorities, which had expressed doubts about the asylum seeker’s conversion. However, the court found that this was not the reason for rejecting his asylum application and deciding to deport him. It said Switzerland was therefore not in violation of Convention on Human Rights provisions on the right to life and prohibition of torture, as argued by the asylum seeker.

The 35-year-old Iranian had entered Switzerland in 2009 and immediately filed for asylum. He brought three sets of asylum proceedings, all of which were rejected. He said he had been arrested and imprisoned in Iran for demonstrating against the presidential elections but had managed to escape and flee the country, after which an Iranian court sentenced him in absentia to 36 months in jail. The asylum authorities found that his account was not credible or sufficiently substantiated.

In his second application, he argued he would be in danger if he returned to Iran because he had meanwhile converted from Islam to Christianity. The asylum authorities doubted that his conversion was genuine and lasting, and again rejected his application.

Rejected appeals

In 2014, the Swiss Federal Administrative Court dismissed an appeal by the applicant against that decision. It considered that Christian converts would only face a risk of ill-treatment upon return to Iran if they were particularly exposed in the public arena, and that this was not the case for the complainant.

His asylum application was rejected again in 2016 and he was due to be deported in October that year. This was stayed pending the outcome of his case before the European Court of Human Rights.

The European Court said it “has regard to the reasoning advanced by the domestic authorities for their conclusions and the reports on the situation of Christian converts in Iran” and “it sees no grounds to consider that the assessment made by the domestic authorities was inadequate”.

It also decided to indicate to the Swiss government “not to expel the applicant until such time as the present judgment becomes final or until further order”.