May wins legal fight to ban Iran dissident

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Conservative Home Secretary Theresa May won a High Court fight with fellow politicians yesterday when judges concluded that she was entitled to ban a dissident Iranian politician from Britain.

A cross-party group of MPs and peers, led by leading Liberal Democrat Lord Carlile, a senior lawyer, took legal action, claiming that the exclusion of Maryam Rajavi was “unjustified”.

But Mrs May contested the claim. She said she feared “unlawful reprisals” by the Iranian government if Mrs Rajavi was allowed into the UK and argued that the ban was “conducive to the public good”.

Two judges ruled in favour of Mrs May yesterday after a High Court hearing in London in February and dismissed a claim for “judicial review”.

They said the Home Secretary had established that the ban was “proportionate” and “justified”.

Judges said 16 “eminent cross-party members of the House of Lords and House of Commons” had invited Mrs Rajavi to Westminster to discuss “democracy”.

Politicians argued that Mrs May had “in effect surrendered to the fear of unlawful action by the Iranian government” and “failed to give due weight to the importance of the rule of law”.

Mrs May said the ban was a “matter of judgment” based on assessment of information the court did not have – and judges agreed.

“My heart has been with the claimants and I would dearly like to find in their favour. Reluctantly, however, I have concluded it would be wrong to do so,” said Lord Justice Stanley Burnton, who sat with Mr Justice Underhill.

Judges said the case could be “unique”. They said Mrs Rajavi, who lives in Paris, was an “eminent” politician. Her “democratic credentials” were “not in dispute” and Ministers had “no quarrel” with her views.

Nevertheless, Mrs May thought the risk of reprisal by Iran if Mrs Rajavi entered the UK “sufficiently great” to justify exclusion.