Senior Iranian Official Apprehended in Toronto


      Markus Schreiber/AP    

In a significant development, Canada has initiated deportation proceedings against a high-ranking Iranian government official discovered residing in Toronto, as per information obtained by Global News.

The individual in question is 42-year-old Seyed Salman Samani, who now faces a deportation hearing under sanctions implemented a year ago targeting members of Iran's hardline regime. The Canada Border Services Agency has formally requested the Immigration and Refugee Board to conduct a hearing for Samani, which could lead to his removal.

Refugee Board spokesperson Anna Pape confirmed, "Samani was referred for an admissibility hearing on Nov. 10, 2023." The Canadian government has chosen not to disclose whether the case involves the Seyed Salman Samani who holds the position of Iran’s deputy minister of interior.

Scheduled to commence on Jan. 3, 2024, these proceedings are a result of sanctions introduced in November 2022, specifically prohibiting senior members of the Iranian regime from staying in Canada. Notably, this marks the first case under these sanctions, established in response to the tragic killing of Mahsa Amini by Iran’s morality police for revealing her hair in public. Amini's death sparked widespread outcry against the suppression of women under Iran’s clerical regime.

In retaliation, Canada designated Iran’s government as a regime involved in "terrorism and systematic and gross human rights violations." This policy effectively bars entry to tens of thousands of Iranian officials and members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps into Canada.

Iran’s deputy interior minister, Seyed Salman Samani.    

The Immigration and Refugee Board has disclosed that the Iranian national facing inadmissibility hearings was born on Jan. 16, 1981. However, no additional details have been made public, and the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has refrained from commenting on the case, citing privacy laws.

This individual, reportedly appointed Iran’s Deputy Minister of Interior in 2016, remains unnamed. The Interior Ministry oversees Iran’s domestic security and police agencies, which have been implicated in widespread human rights abuses.

The current Interior Minister, Ahmad Vahidi, a former general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has faced sanctions from Canada, the U.S., and Europe. The U.S. Treasury accused Vahidi of being responsible for deploying police to quell protests in Iran, including those related to the death of Mahsa Amini. Vahidi has previously issued warnings to Iranian women regarding hijab compliance.

As for Seyed Salman Samani, the subject of the deportation case, his profile on the interior ministry website identifies him as the deputy minister and official spokesperson. In 2019, he represented Iran at the United Nations, defending Tehran’s human rights record as part of a delegation.

It's noteworthy that Iran has been accused of training, financing, and arming terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as supporting armed militia groups in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, publicly praised the Hamas attackers who killed Israelis on Oct. 7, expressing pride in their actions.

Leader of Hamas terrorist group, Ismail Haniyeh, speaks in front of portraits of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in Tehran, Feb. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).    

Kaveh Shahrooz, a Toronto lawyer and senior fellow at the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, expressed concern over the deep connections required to become a deputy minister in Iran, suggesting that loyalty to the regime is essential for such positions. He criticized Canada for being perceived as a safe haven for regime members, citing the ease of entry, money laundering opportunities, and a lack of seriousness from Canadian officials.

Canada's ban on senior members of the Iranian regime encompasses a broad range of individuals involved in crimes against the people of Iran and other nations. This includes heads of state, members of the Cabinet, ambassadors, senior diplomats, members of the judiciary, senior military and intelligence officials, and senior public servants.

According to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), it has initiated deportation proceedings against nine Iranian officials under the sanctions imposed a year ago. One case was withdrawn as the person left Canada, while two were in the stage of scheduling hearings. Paperwork for the remaining cases was still being prepared for submission to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB).

The IRB confirmed processing two deportation cases involving Iranian nationals removed from Canada under the sanctions. Details on the second case were not provided at the time. Canada, having severed diplomatic relations with Iran in 2012 over nuclear pursuits and support for terrorist groups, continues to designate Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism. The IRGC Quds Force is listed as a terrorist entity in Canada.

Despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's initial vow to restore diplomatic ties with Iran in 2015, the downing of a passenger plane in 2020 by the IRGC, resulting in the death of 85 Canadian citizens and permanent residents, has complicated relations between the two nations.