The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bangla asylum row

Canberra, June 13 (Reuters): Australia today defended a decision to grant refugee status to former Bangladeshi Prime Minister Kazi Zafar Ahmed who was convicted of corruption in his home country.

The government launched an inquiry following media reports that Ahmed was now a refugee in Australia and receiving a disability pension, having left Bangladesh in 1999 shortly before he was convicted and sentenced to 15 years in jail for graft.

Immigration minister Philip Ruddock said Ahmed’s criminal conviction was disclosed in his claim for refugee status and found to be “politically motivated”. “It was accepted by the decision maker (who dealt with his protection claim) that criminal proceedings were in themselves politically motivated,” Ruddock told reporters.

Ruddock said the decision would be reviewed by senior immigration officers while it was up to Bangladeshi authorities to decide if they wanted to try to extradite Ahmed. “But what advice I have received is there is nothing in the nature of that decision that would appear, at this stage, to be tainted,” he said.

Australia’s refugee policy is among the toughest in the world when it comes to illegal immigration. But a spotlight has recently been cast on decisions to grant asylum, or residency, to foreigners convicted of crimes in their home countries.

Ahmed was Prime Minister during the rule of former President Hossain Mohammad Ershad.

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