A former senior Iranian official facing deportation from Canada told a hearing Thursday he was unaware his boss had ordered police to kill protesters in 2019.
In testimony before the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), Seyed Salman Samani said he knew nothing about a directive to use lethal force issued by his superior.
Samani, who came to Canada after serving as Iran’s deputy minister of interior, acknowledged he reported to Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli.
According to the U.S., Fazli approved the use of deadly force against demonstrations that erupted in November 2019 after Iran’s so-called morality police killed a woman for showing her hair.
But Samani said he had no knowledge of that and was so “troubled” by the events at the time that he decided to leave government.
Asked why he remained on the job until August 2021, he said he decided to stay with the interior ministry to help fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
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The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) is trying to deport Samani, alleging that as a senior official in Iran’s repressive regime, he is inadmissible to Canada.
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He is the second Iranian official to face removal from Canada under sanctions adopted by the government last year.
On Feb. 2, the IRB ordered the deportation of Majid Iranmanesh, former director general of Iran’s Vice Presidency for Science and Technology.
The sanctions were imposed after Iran’s morality police killed Mahsa Amini after detaining her for not wearing a head covering.
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.
Despite having been a high-profile government spokesperson, Samani entered Canada using a visitor visa issued in Ankara, Turkey.
But after he arrived, he faced questions about his past role in the regime.
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At his hearing, Samani said the CBSA report on him was “full of misunderstandings,” and he welcomed the proceedings to clear the air.
He said he had never been involved in human rights abuses, and was not aware the Iranian regime was engaged in arbitrary arrests, torture and killings.
“I have been doing my best in order to protect human rights in my country,” he said.
But he acknowledged he had been deputy minister, as well as the spokesperson for the interior ministry, although he said he “was only responsible for distributing the information.”
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The Canada Border Services Agency said 86 investigations had been launched into possible Iranian officials living in Canada.
Forty investigations have been closed because the individuals were either not in Canada or were not found to be senior regime officials.
“Ten persons have been reported inadmissible by the CBSA for being a senior official in the Iranian regime and will be referred to an admissibility hearing,” the agency said.
In addition to Iranmanesh and Samani, one additional case was sent to the IRB for a hearing, but the individual left the country before the proceedings began.
Eighty-two visas were also cancelled by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada due to the sanctions. The figures are as of Jan. 8, 2024.
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