Tuesday 21 January 2020

Politician claiming persecution in native country wins High Court challenge against asylum denial

Stock photo
Stock photo

Saurya Cherfi

A politician, who claimed he was persecuted in his native Moldova because he was a member of an opposition political party, has won a High Court challenge against a decision of the Refugee Appeals Tribunal denying him asylum.

In a judgment Mr Justice Richard Humphreys quashed the decision and transferred the case to the tribunal for a new hearing.

Mr Justice Humphreys said the applicant, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, was a member of an opposition political party that was a rival to the ruling communist party. 

The judge said the applicant, who had been elected to public office, had been accused of corruption following a series of measures taken against opposition politicians at the time. 

The man had been prosecuted for recording false data in official documents.  He denied having been engaged in any criminal activity but was suspended from office after a court hearing at which he and his lawyer were not present.  An appeal against that decision had later been refused.

The judge said the applicant then made a complaint regarding the prosecutor, on the grounds that he had a personal interest in the matter as he was allegedly linked to the politician. 

The man had contacted the Council of Europe in relation to his case and that of similar opposition party politicians who had also been suspended and replaced by government mayors on the grounds of similar allegations.

The man applied for asylum after arriving in Ireland, some ten years ago.  He was subsequently convicted in his absence by a Moldovan court of an offence in relation to land transfer.

The Moldovan Supreme Court upheld that conviction in but reduced his sentence from the eight years initially imposed to six years imprisonment.

Judge Humphreys said the man’s application for asylum here was refused and appealed twice.  He had then applied to the High Court for a judicial review of that decision.

The judge said in his judgment the tribunal had found that what had happened to the politician in his home country was “mere prosecution” and not persecution.

The tribunal had decided that the applicant had been afforded due process when his case had come before the Moldovan courts and he had therefore not suffered any fundamental breach of his human rights.

The judge said in his view, the idea that due process could be afforded to a person who was oppressively selected was “fundamentally misconceived, entirely irrational and indeed nonsensical.” 

The judge said there was nothing in the papers to suggest that the man had been guilty of a criminal offence.  He said the applicant had been discriminatory prosecuted and sentenced to jail because of his membership of an opposition party.  This was clearly a severe violation of his human rights, the judge added.

The judge quashed the tribunal decision rejecting the applicant’s appeal in relation to his asylum claim and remitted the case to the tribunal for a new hearing before a different tribunal member.

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