By Andra Jackson
The Federal Government has forcibly deported an Iranian Christian to Iran, sparking criticism from church groups that he has been placed at risk.
The deportation is only the second involuntary deportation of a Christian to Iran where converting to Christianity is an offence.
A Catholic nun working at the Baxter immigration detention centre in South Australia said she was with the man at a church service just before he was summoned to an Immigration Department office. He had then "disappeared".
Sister Anne, a Sister of Mercy said: "We're all in a state of shock."
An Immigration Department spokesman said there was no legal impediment to the removal of the man, who converted to Christianity in the Curtin detention centre in Western Australia.
He confirmed that a charter plane had flown the 36-year-old to Perth where he was placed on a commercial airline to be taken to Iran.
The spokesman said the department did not disclose the timing of deportation in advance for "operation reasons".
Cases were assessed on an individual basis "without sweeping generalisations on whether a particular country is safe", the spokesman said.
The Uniting Church's Christian justice consultant in WA, Rosemary Hudson-Miller, said Australia was the only country deporting people to Iran.
The US State Department listed Iran as a country where many people were at risk, particularly people of different religious persuasion, she said.