Australia cancels visa of British Muslim cleric who called for 'death sentence' for gay people

Muslim cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar arriving at the Imam Husian Islamic Centre in Sydney on June 14.
Muslim cleric Farrokh Sekaleshfar arriving at the Imam Husian Islamic Centre in Sydney on June 14. PHOTO: EPA

SYDNEY (AFP) - A British Muslim cleric who once preached that gays should be put to death has had his Australian visa cancelled and has left the country, with the authorities on Wednesday (June 15) saying it is unlikely he will ever be allowed back.

Farrokh Sekaleshfar was in Sydney as the guest speaker of an Islamic centre for the holy month of Ramadan. But it emerged this week that in a 2013 lecture he suggested that death was a "compassionate" sentence for homosexuals, sparking an outcry in the wake of the Orlando gay nightclub killings.

The government reviewed the decision to let him in, but Sekaleshfar flew out on Tuesday evening just ahead of his visa being revoked. "I made the decision last night to cancel his visa," Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told Sky News.

"It will be very difficult, if not impossible, for him to return back to our country.

"We're not going to tolerate people who want to come here to preach hate and we will cancel visas, we will act as quickly as humanly possibly where we're made aware of radical views," he added.

The Australian newspaper revealed Sekaleshfar's presence in Sydney as the world reeled in shock after 49 people were killed by Omar Mateen when he opened fire in a popular gay Florida club on Sunday.

US President Barack Obama branded it an act of terror and hate.

The paper reported that during a lecture at the University of Michigan in 2013, Sekaleshfar said "death is the sentence" when asked about homosexuality, adding: "Out of compassion, let's get rid of them now."

In a rambling interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation before leaving Sydney he denied his comments could be connected to the Florida massacre, and called Mateen "an animal".

"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 (Omar Mateen). Not at all. He was an ISIS sympathiser, a follower of Baghdadi, these people are criminals," he added, referring to Islamic State in Iraq and Syria leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The cleric also said he respected any action taken by the Australian government.

"But I just want to give that assurance that it's not a theme, my themes don't revolve around this area," he said, referring to punishing homosexuals.