The voice from Turkey is scratchy but the message is clear: the Iranian sheikh facing deportation from Australia, Mansour Leghaei, is an extremist and a ”mastermind terrorist”.The accuser, an Iranian dissident who has fled the regime, has established contact with the Herald on an internet phone line to condemn Leghaei, the Sydney sheikh who ASIO has branded a threat to national security. This is the same moderate Shia preacher who Christian leaders have hailed for building bridges in the Australian community; who has won the unanimous support of Canterbury and Marrickville councils; and who the federal Attorney General, Robert McClelland – the man in charge of ASIO – once described as an asset to the nation.There is one big problem with the accuser hiding in Turkey. He can offer no proof. For the media, this has always been the frustration when reporting on Leghaei, whose eviction from Australia – after a 13-year battle – could be days away.ASIO does not have to tell Leghaei or the Australian people why it has deemed him a risk, so it is tempting to listen to people who might offer us some hints. The man on the phone recites a letter that he and the Iranian Refugees Collective, Turkey, have sent in recent days to Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, urging him to go ahead and deport Leghaei.”He used to give Islamic lectures in the Goohardasht Karj and Evin prison centres, the most notorious jails in the country, and interviewed the individuals imprisoned in its jails,” they claim in the letter.”Some of us we know him very well in Iran, as he used to patrol with bodyguards, passing by with security. We used to laugh and say to each other, ‘Here he comes! The Minister of Halal Meat (Haj-Agha gooshtey), the killer of Iranian people!’ We have his images and we recognise he is in Australia for 15 or 16 years.”There is nothing in the letter, however, Evans could consider as evidence. No images are attached. Most of its 680 words rail against the Iranian regime and its persecution and murder of dissidents. None of it establishes a link between 47-year-old Leghaei and the regime.If the minister – the sheikh’s last chance – is going to deport Leghaei, he is unlikely to give any weight to this letter. He will be relying on a case built by ASIO: the suspected ”acts of foreign interference” which it has never disclosed to the public, the stuff we are not allowed to know.When the Herald presents Leghaei with the allegations in the letter at the Imam Husain Islamic Centre at Earlwood, which he founded in 1997, he is at first calm but resolute: ”If I don’t doubt their integrity, they have mistaken me for someone else. Otherwise they are just lying.”He adds: ”They don’t know me. Simple. I have never visited any prison in Iran – never, ever any prison in Iran in my life. In fact, I have visited one prison and that was in Australia.”The Herald raises another unsubstantiated claim – this time from a source in Iran, via a Sydney-based Iranian – that Leghaei’s brother works for the secret police and his sister carries a walkie-talkie and informs on women who dress immodestly. Leghaei sighs, almost laughs: ”I don’t have any sister. Please report this one.” His four brothers, he says, have small businesses in a market in his home city, Isfahan.By now he is suspecting a network of ”malicious lies” – fabrications by people who have never met him, who must be desperately exploiting his plight to bolster their wider campaign against Iran’s rulers.”I am very happy you have access to such information because my sixth sense is that ASIO has made a big mistake by relying on such baseless allegations that are only politically motivated.”Leghaei’s bridging visa to stay in Australia expires on Monday. The latest of many since his battle began, it was extended for two weeks on April 19 to allow Evans more time to consider the sheikh’s request that he override ASIO’s adverse security assessments. If the minister refuses, Leghaei’s wife, Marzieh, and one of their four children, 20-year-old Ali – an accountancy student who describes himself as a ”complete Aussie” and who speaks almost no Farsi – also face deportation to Iran. If the minister wants more time, the bridging visa may be extended, yet again.So what does ASIO know, or believe? We can only grasp at snippets from Leghaei’s failed legal battle which went all the way to the High Court. The sheikh fills in some of the gaps.He arrived in Australia in February 1994 with his wife and three sons, then four-year-old Ali, and 10-year-old twins, Reza and Sadiq (now 26, they have secured citizenship). Fatima, now 14, was born in Sydney two years later. Leghaei came on a three-month business visa to act as an inspector of halal meat exported from Australia to Iran. He was sponsored by both an Australian export company and an Iranian import firm, but his position also required the endorsement of the Iranian government, which vouched for his authority as a sheikh and inspector.Leghaei had completed his PhD in theosophy – a combination of theology and philosophy – in Iran. Other than six months as a university lecturer before he left for Australia, he says he had only been a student. He never worked, he says, as a halal meat inspector or ”minister” in Iran, as asserted in the letter from Turkey.Leghaei says his business visa was extended for another three months. During that time, however, a drought in Australia made its meat too expensive for Iran, which turned instead to New Zealand.”I was about to pack up and leave. But some of the local members of the Al-Zahra mosque in Arncliffe … they came and saw me and said, ‘Since you are in Australia, why don’t you stay here for one year with a temporary visa as a religious worker?’ ” He was regarded as especially valuable because he was the only cleric in Australia who could speak English, Farsi and Arabic. ”I accepted the offer and applied for my visa as a religious worker for one year.”In July 1995 Leghaei returned to Iran for a brief holiday. On his return to Sydney Airport, officials searched his bag. His luggage included $10,000 in Australian currency. Leghaei says he did not realise that, at this time, amounts over $5000 had to be declared. He was taken to a room and body-searched. While there, he now realises, officers took an exercise book from his bag and copied about half of its 150 pages. The book contained his student notes, in which he quoted scholars on the subject of jihad. This book would become very significant. But it was not until 2002, when he launched legal action against ASIO, that Leghaei would learn it had obtained these notes – and an alarming translation that suggested he supported violent jihad.Leghaei was allowed to leave the airport with the $10,000. He says the officers appeared to accept his explanation. It was not his, he says. He was merely delivering a donation from the Islamic Propagation Organisation, a publisher of Islamic texts in Tehran, to the Great Prophet Islamic Centre in Melbourne.The next month, in September 1995, ASIO approached Leghaei for the first time. Its agent, identified only as Brian, had asked Leghaei if he was aware that Salman Rushdie was about to visit Australia. The novelist’s life was under the threat of a fatwa. Leghaei had said he was not aware of the visit.Brian also asked about the $10,000. ”Perhaps it was a point of suspicion,” Leghaei says, but the agent had appeared to accept his explanation.Brian did not ask about the exercise book, Leghaei says. He got the impression Brian was trying to cultivate him as an informant. Brian asked him to gather information on the Islamic Propagation Organisation – its objectives, hierarchy and constitution. Leghaei says he agreed to try but later found he was unable to help.This had been the first of eight meetings with ASIO, the last occurring in July 1999. He was questioned about an Iraqi group based in Auburn. He was asked about his role as a meat certifier. ”But they never asked me about the booklet,” Leghaei says.In November 1996, the sheikh applied for permanent residency and later submitted letters in support of his application. These included two from federal Labor MPs, Anthony Albanese and Robert McClelland.But Leghaei learnt in August 1997 that his application had been rejected on the basis of an adverse security assessment by ASIO. He was given no explanation. As a non-citizen, he was entitled to none.While he launched an appeals process, McClelland wrote a second letter of support in December 1997, saying he was ”most surprised” by the decision and that Leghaei was ”an asset to the Muslim community in particular and the Australian community at large”. Now that he is Attorney-General, McClelland’s office has pointed out that his reference was based on his knowledge as a local member, and that he ”was not privy to the content of security assessments made about Dr Leghaei at the time”.In May 1999, the then immigration minister, Philip Ruddock, officially opened Leghaei’s Islamic centre at Earlwood, remarking: ”I do note very much the inclusive nature of the centre that you have developed.”Around this time, Iran’s ambassador to Australia presented a $32,000 cheque to the centre. It was in appreciation for the same amount which the centre had raised for earthquake victims in Iran. For some Iranian refugees in Sydney, however, this alone is confirmation that Leghaei must be in the pay of the regime.ASIO conducted its last interview with Leghaei in July 1999. Two officers questioned him. ”It lasted three hours. They asked me about some overseas organisations, such as Ahlul Bayt in France.” He replied that he knew of no such group, but he explained that he had opened an education centre in Nigeria in 1992 called Ahlul Bayt – a commonly used term meaning ”house of the prophet”.Leghaei made a freedom of information request in 2001 and discovered that an anonymous letter, addressed to the immigration minister, had alleged he was funded by the Iranian government and was a threat to the security of Australia and its Iranian community.The next year, ASIO made a second adverse assessment. Only now, when he initiated Federal Court proceedings against ASIO, did the Australian government solicitors advise his lawyers about documents ASIO had held since 1995. They included the translation of Leghaei’s notebook.”It did not resemble my work,” Leghaei says. The translation, he says, added inflammatory material about the killing of infidels. It listed the ”enemies of Islam” and said: ”It is a Muslim’s basic duty to wipe out the above classes.” Leghaei cites this as an example of many offending lines that did not appear in his original notes. ”The word infidel doesn’t exist in my book.”In the end, ASIO accepted that its translation was flawed and was ordered to pay a third of Leghaei’s legal costs – about $30,000.But ASIO prevailed. An affidavit from its then director-general, Dennis Richardson, argued the information on Leghaei must remain confidential to protect ASIO’s sources and conceal its targets.The Inspector General for Intelligence and Security backed ASIO, saying it had ”sufficient ground” to make its finding.In November 2007 the High Court upheld findings that concerns about national security outweighed any rights Leghaei might have to procedural fairness.Cyrus Sarang is a Sydney Iranian who believes Leghaei deserves to be deported. An activist, Sarang is the head of the Iranian Action Collective and the Refugees Action Collective. He, too, has no proof against the sheikh. Rather, he claims Leghaei’s failure to join protests against the regime confirm his complicity. His mere wearing of the turban, Sarang claims, is confirmation.But Sarang is no fan of ASIO. His home was raided in 2003 and his computer and documents were seized. He denied raising funds for the Iranian regime’s rivals, the Mujahedin-e Khlaq, which Australia regards as a terrorist organisation. Even Sarang believes Leghaei is entitled to be told why he must leave Australia. ”They should have to explain.”But they don’t. Leghaei and his family expect the minister’s decision any day now. ”I am so confident that there is absolutely nothing sinister in my life,” he says.If there is, we will probably never know.