An Iranian former police commander who gave first-hand evidence of atrocities committed during the November 2019 protests is at risk of being "offshored" from the UK to Rwanda next week.
The man arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in May this year and is currently being held in Brook House Detention Center, a removal facility near an airport in England run by a private contractor on behalf of the British government.
Last November the ex-officer had testified via videolink to the Aban Tribunal in London about his experience overseeing a team of 60 police officers during the November 2019 demonstrations.
He fled Iran after being sentenced to five years in prison for refusing to open fire on peaceful protesters at the time of the unrest, when hundreds if not thousands were killed by security forces in Iran.
According to a letter sent to UK Home Secretary Priti Patel by the tribunal's co-counsel on Monday, seen by IranWire, the man was informed on March 31 that he will be deported to Rwanda for processing next week.
Under the terms of a highly controversial new deal, the UK government is poised to begin sending male asylum seekers who arrived in the UK "illegally" - via small boats across the English Channel - to the central African country to have their cases dealt with there.
Those whose asylum claims fail can be deported from Rwanda to their country of origin, which in the case of this individual could be tantamount to a death sentence. The first deportation flight is scheduled for Tuesday, June 14. Four Iranians are understood to be on the passenger list.
During the Aban Tribunal, the ex-police commander, then identified as Witness 195, told an independent panel of legal experts under oath that his unit had received a direct order to shoot at protesters on November 17, 2019: the same day security forces initiated a lethal crackdown on anti-government protests across Iran.
Witness 195 refused, and was later arrested and subjected to what he described as "severe psychological torture" at a detention center run by the Revolutionary Guards. This included being subjected to false claims that his family were dead. He was only allowed to contact them after going on hunger strike.
According to his own testimony, he was then tried in a behind-closed-doors military court in a hearing that lasted just 10 minutes, and subsequently sentenced to five years in prison, upheld by the Supreme Court on appeal.
The charges were “cooperation and coordination with protesters” and non-compliance with an order from the IRGC.
Parts of Witness 195's testimony were extremely sensitive even by the standards of what was heard at the tribunal. Among other things, he said he had seen IRGC snipers and plainclothes officers shooting at crowds “without any aim or purpose”.
The former policeman also corroborated others' testimonies that security forces had deliberately set fire to public buildings to foment a sense of chaos, giving their colleagues the jusfitication they needed to open fire.
Like tens of other Iranians who addressed the Aban Tribunal, Witness 195 spoke with his identity protected. His wife and children were in hiding at the time and other members of his family in Iran are still being harassed by the authorities.
In the letter to Priti Patel on Monday, Aban Tribunal co-counsel Hamid Sabi described him as "a conscientious and brave citizen of the world" with "a genuine and well-founded fear of persecution in Iran".
He added: "Iranian agents were seeking his whereabouts while he was in Turkey by harassing his family members. Rwanda, having a close relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, is not a safe haven. Please reconsider your decision for his removal."