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Former Miss Iran stranded in Philippines airport pleads for asylum

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A former Miss Iran has spent a week in a Philippines airport as she fights to claim asylum in the south-east Asian country, saying she fears execution in Iran on politically motivated charges.

Bahareh Zare Bahari was accused of assault by an Iranian national in the Philippines, a charge she said was false, and made because she had showed support for Tehran’s critics in the past. Iranian authorities put out a red notice about her to Interpol, resulting in her being held in Ninoy Aquino international airport in Manila when she tried to enter the country on 17 October.

She now fears Iran may seek to extradite her to Tehran then have her killed or jailed. She has shown support for activists opposing Iran’s government in the past, notably at last year’s Miss Intercontinental beauty pageant in Manila, at which she competed. At the event she waved a poster of Reza Pahlavi, an Iranian former crown prince who has criticised the Iranian regime.

“I used his photo in a beauty pageant and they are angry with me,” she told Arab News. “If they deport me, they will give me at least 25 years in jail, if they do not kill me.”

Bahari said she had studied studied dentistry in the Philippines since 2014, and had travelled in and out of the country before being stopped at the airport last week. “The Iran regime tried its best to deport me nine months ago, but I was successful,” she told the Philippine Star. “Now, they make a fake case in Iran.”

Phil Robertson at Human Rights Watch said: “While waiting for the details to become clear, there should be no action under Iran’s Interpol red notice, especially since under Interpol rules a red notice is null and void if the person named in the notice is found to be a refugee fleeing from the state that issued it.”

A spokesperson for the Philippines’ justice department said Bahari’s asylum application would be processed in “due time”.

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