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A stay of execution for a young Iranian Christian

This is a guest post by Melvyn Kohn

For the passengers on BMI flight BD 931 from Heathrow to Tehran, there was a delay. The plane had to return to the terminal after being cleared for takeoff shortly after 1900 hours on Tuesday, 9 June. Worried looks spelled out the unspoken word that none dared utter: terrorism.

Relief abounded when the real cause was announced. The crew was in possession of the passport of an individual who was not on board, so the authorities demanded it come back and return the passport. The person not on board was the young Iranian Christian under threat from the governent in Iran, and for whom there had been an internet appeal launched on Sunday on this site. (and also noted picked up on He was also under threat of deportation to Iran, despite the fact that he was being sought there for his ‘crime’ of his faith.

After reading that post, a number of readers started calling around to see what could be done. Not much was the answer. His MP Brian Iddon was contacted (both by email and phone), Phil Woolas and Alan Johnson were emailed, and his case worker was faxed. No response. Tracy Windle, Johnson’s secretary, was not best pleased when Dave Taylor called her at the constituency office, and has not bothered to either pass on a message to him or to respond. Further awkwardness occured when Jane Davis, Johnson’s PA in Parliament, was asked to contact him. She could not, she told Taylor. She was then asked why not. He was in his cabinet office, she replied. But, Taylor pointed out, she must be have an email? No, she replied. And perhaps not so much as a mobile or landline either, she might have told him, had Taylor not asked her name at that point and rung off in disgust.

The hunt for the Missing in Action government employees went on, and with no progress in hand and the deportation imminent, I called Gordon Brown’s office. Perhaps this far exceeds the bounds of chutzpah, but in my brain I consider the man an employee of the British public and expect him to take the responsibility for those who he appoints to take respnsibility when they fail to do so. The person at the other end of the phone did not quite agree and gave me further run around. I then decided to emailed Mr Brown. I at least received a reply; from a robot.

But, what of the young man? Why his passport, but not his body, on the plane? I met him this morning and asked for details. He told me he had been physically escorted to the plane and boarded with a HO security detail. At which point he gave the crew the note I had composed for him in such a contingency. It advised the pilot that the deportee was facing possible death in Iran for his religious beliefs, and had had his case horribly mucked about by the HO. It directed him to the story on this site.

The pilot decided then and there he was not going to take him. What went trhough his mind at that moment is now a matter of speculation, but I would suspect that the student, who is a very polite and humble individual, made an impression on the pilot. The thought of transporting such a person to meet an unpleasant fate caused him to take the course of action that he did. It is not surprising to me that the pilot sided with him and not with the HO.

At the pilot’s command he was taken off the plane and reprocessed, but at some point it was noticed that his passport was not among his papers. Thus the reason to return the craft. The passport was restored to the HO personnel, and the HO’s victim was restored to Harmondsworth. Hopefully, he will in turn restore his case, as he was not advised in English properly about his appeal forms.

We sent those off on Monday to the High Court with an explanation asking for understanding and for an extension to be granted until such time as the HO provides proper translation. For those who read their translation work on the previous post, you might wonder how any judge could have proceeded with the case at all; it made Borat sound grammatical.

We will continue to try to get some MP to do their job and take notice of his case. But don’t hold your breath for Alan Johnson. A very prescient comment about him was posted on the comments page to the previous story as follows:

If Alan Johnson does not intervene promptly, he will have fallen at the first hurdle, proving that he is just as useless and illiberal as his various New Labour predecessors.

Fallen at the first hurdle…useless. I’d say that sums him up.

Personally I do not feel that he and his cronies represent the British people – many of whom came forward to fight this case. I thank all of you who did, including David T for placing these posts here. There is still more work to be done on this, and other cases.

And if anyone has an Alan Johnson sighting, give a yell. There are some some folks wishing to have a word with him about a very serious matter.