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British-born cleric leaves Australia as visa reviewed

Published 15/06/2016

Ministers said Farrokh Sekaleshfar decided to leave Sydney Airport before his visa was cancelled
Ministers said Farrokh Sekaleshfar decided to leave Sydney Airport before his visa was cancelled

A British-born Islamic cleric has left Australia after comments he made against homosexuality sparked a government review of his visa, an official said.

Minister for immigration and border protection Peter Dutton said Farrokh Sekaleshfar had decided to leave Sydney Airport late on Tuesday before his visa was cancelled.

Sekaleshfar came under investigation over a newspaper report on comments he made about homosexuality during a lecture at the University of Michigan in 2013.

The Australian newspaper reported Sekaleshfar said "Death is the sentence" for gay sex acts in public.

Sekaleshfar told Australian Broadcasting Corp his comments were taken out of context.

Sekaleshfar told ABC he had decided to leave Australia after discussions with the Muslim community. He said he had not been asked to leave by the Australian government.

Mr Dutton said: "This individual has decided to leave of his own accord last night, which we welcome, and it will be very difficult if not impossible for him to return back to our country."

Sekaleshfar expressed sympathy to ABC for the families of those killed in the Orlando gay nightclub and denied his comments could have inspired such a mass shooting.

"No speech, especially when you're not inciting any hatred, and it was given three years ago - that would never lead to such a massacre," he said.

"That animal, they are connecting me to him (gunman Omar Mateen). Not at all. He was an Isis sympathiser, a follower of (Islamic State group leader Abu Bakr) al-Baghdadi, these people are criminals," Sekaleshfar added.

Prime minister Malcolm Turnbull said he would investigate why Sekaleshfar had not been placed on a watch list that would have alerted authorities to his visa application.

"The moment that this man's presence and what he had said was drawn to our attention, the minister and I spoke about it, the minister acted decisively and his visa was revoked," Mr Turnbull told Radio 2GB.

Sekaleshfar arrived in Sydney last Tuesday as a guest speaker of the Imam Husain Islamic Centre.

Mr Dutton said he had ordered the visa review after becoming aware on Monday of the cleric's presence in Australia.

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