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Iranian regime official wants press banned from Canadian deportation hearing

Before arriving in Canada, Seyed Salman Samani was a frontman for Iran’s government.

He can be seen in photos standing in front of a row of microphones, speaking for the interior ministry.

But now that he is in Canada, he wants privacy.

Samani, Iran’s former deputy minister of interior, appeared before the Immigration and Refugee Board for the first time on Wednesday.

The IRB is holding hearings that could result in his deportation for being a senior member of Iran’s repressive regime.

The Refugee Board ruled on Dec. 18 that the case would be heard in public, but Samani’s lawyer said he was appealing that decision.

Seyed Salman Samani, when he was spokesperson for Iran’s ministry of interior.

In a letter to the IRB on Saturday, Robert Israel Blanshay asked the Board to postpone Samani’s case while he appealed to the Federal Court.

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“His concerns over his privacy, name, particular circumstances, etc…are entirely reasonable, rational and plausible,” the lawyer wrote.

“His is a high-profile, public case, more than likely garnering much attention across Canada, and internationally.”

But the IRB decided to carry on regardless. The case was scheduled to begin on Feb. 8.

IRB Member Kirk Dickenson said the Canada Border Services Agency had alleged in a March 16, 2023, report that Samani was inadmissible to Canada.

In particular, the CBSA is alleging that Samani was a senior official in the services of a government engaged in gross human rights violations, Dickenson said.

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A “senior official” includes cabinet ministers, advisors and senior members of the public service, he added.

Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, right, meeting Hamas leaders Ismail Haniyeh, centre, and his deputy Saleh Arouri in Tehran, Iran, on June 21, 2023. (Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP, File).

Samani said little during the hearing, which was conducted with the help of a Farsi interpretor. He sat in front of a window with a view of a bare winter tree.

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He is believed to be the first senior member of the Iranian regime to face removal from Canada under sanctions adopted by the government last year.

The sanctions were imposed after Iran’s morality police detained and killed Mahsa Amini for showing her hair in public.

Canada responded by designating Iran’s government a regime engaged in “terrorism and systematic and gross human rights violations.”

The policy effectively barred tens of thousands of Iranian officials and Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp members from Canada.

The Freedom Rally for Iran, in support of Mahsa Amini, continues into the evening at Mel Lastman Square in Toronto on Oct. 1, 2022. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Dominic Chan.

Samani was interviewed by the CBSA in December 2022, according to his lawyer’s letter to the IRB.

On Nov. 10, the CBSA sent his case to the IRB for an inadmissibility hearing that could result in his deportation for being a senior regime member.

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As deputy minister of the interior for parliament affairs and provincial coordination and spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior, Samani was a senior official in the government department that oversees Iran’s domestic security and police agencies, which have been implicated in widespread human rights abuses.

A second senior Iranian government official, Iranmanesh Majid, is also facing possible deportation from Canada. His case was scheduled to begin on Jan. 17, 2024.

Click to play video: 'Canada bans more Iranian officials over ‘terrorism,’ human rights abuses'

Canada bans more Iranian officials over ‘terrorism,’ human rights abuses

Blanshay argued that while Samani had not previously sought to hold his proceedings behind closed doors, it was “never too late” to do so.

“The fact that S.S.S. did not pursue private proceedings in [the] past in no way weakens his current desire and request for privacy,” Blanshay wrote.

The letter alleged the Iranian regime targeted regime opponents, and that Samani was “surely defined as a person opposed to the regime.”

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The Canadian government has argued that Samani was not in any danger, and fears he would be targeted in Canada were “speculative,” the letter said.

As part of his argument for holding the hearings in private, Blanshay argued that Global News intended to report on the case.

The CBSA said it was investigating 141 other cases under the Iran sanctions enacted last year. Thirty-eight have been closed without action.

Ten individuals were deemed inadmissible to Canada for being senior regime officials. Nine of those were to be referred to the IRB for hearings.

The CBSA said two cases had been sent to the IRB so far, while a third was withdrawn because the individual left Canada of their own accord.

Paperwork on the remaining cases was still being prepared before it they will be sent the IRB, the immigration enforcement agency said.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

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