An Iranian resistance organisation has strongly condemned Canberra’s bid to forge a deal with Tehran to return asylum seekers.
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has issued a statement urging the Australian government, the international community and human rights groups to “prevent this shameful act”.
The call comes as Foreign Minister Julie Bishop prepares to meet with her Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif during his visit to Australia this week.
But she has played down the likelihood of an imminent deal to send asylum seekers back to Iran.
Such a deal could secure the return of 9000 failed asylum seekers but Ms Bishop says talks have only made it to official level and it had not been discussed between ministers.
“It certainly is a goal,” she told reporters on Monday.
But the NCRI, a Paris-based umbrella group of exiled Iranian opposition political organisations, expressed its “deep abhorrence” that Canberra was in “collusion with the religious fascism ruling Iran”.
The EU and the US formerly listed the major group inside the NCRI, the MEK, as a terrorist organisation, but took it off their terror lists in 2009 and 2012 respectively.
In its statement the NCRI called on Australia “not to victimise the sacred right of asylum for petty and short term economic gains”.
It also urged the international community, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the EU to “condemn this treatment of Iranian refugees in Australia which is blatant violation of international conventions and covenants”.
In a statement to AAP, NCRI foreign affairs committee member Ali Safavi condemned Canberra for “rolling the red carpet” out for Mr Zarif while cracking down on asylum seekers and ignoring human rights abuses in Iran.
“It is shameful and only encourages the Tehran regime to intensify repression at home and to expand its malign interference to the rest of the Middle East.”
Mr Safavi said there had been 2300 executions during Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s tenure.
The NCRI statement said “clerical rule” had turned Iran into “a prison for all Iranian people, especially women”.
“Acid attacks, flogging, stoning, gouging out of eyes, amputation of limbs, and piling up of students, political and civil activists, intellectuals, lawyers and artists in its medieval prisons are but a part of the regime’s infamous record.”
Ms Bishop said she would raise concerns about Iran’s human rights record with Mr Zarif, but played down suggestions she feared for the safety of asylum seekers returning from Australia.
“The Iranians who have gone back are testament to the fact that they’re not being persecuted on their return,” she said.