Australia deports Iranian man to Tehran, activists say

An Iranian man who sought asylum in Australia after converting from Islam to Christianity has been deported to Tehran _ where rights activists say his change of religion could endanger his life, a refugee advocacy group said Wednesday.

The man, in his 30s, was placed on a flight late Tuesday from Sydney to Dubai, from where he would be transported to Iran, said Ian Rental, a spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition.

Rintoul said the man _ whose identity was not released due to fears for his safety _ had a "high likelihood" of being killed in Iran, where activists say Christian converts are routinely persecuted and often put to death.

"There are documented cases of people not getting out of Tehran airport after they've landed," Rintoul said. "So we have very serious concerns about this guy."

London-based Amnesty International said persecution of Christian converts was common in Iran, and that many Western countries consider this when assessing asylum requests.

"It's pretty much universally accepted in most countries that converts will face persecution if their conversion is discovered when they return to Iran," said Amnesty's refugee coordinator in Australia, Graham Thom.

The man arrived in Australia by boat four years ago, and was held at detention centers.

The Department of Immigration declined to confirm if he had been removed from Australia.

A department spokesman said on condition of anonymity the claims all asylum seekers' claims were carefully assessed on their merits, and that no asylum seekers would be deported unless the government was satisfied they would not face persecution.

Such decisions "do not rely on sweeping and superficial generalizations that particular countries are either safe or unsafe for own nationals," the spokesman said.