Family of Iranian who defected is out of Iran, hiding for safety, attorney says

5:50 AM, Oct 2, 2012   |    comments
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the 66th session of the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
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New York (CNN) -- A cameraman who accompanied Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to New York for the U.N. General Assembly has applied for asylum in the United States, and "he's afraid to return to Iran," his attorney said Monday.

New York City-based lawyer Paul O'Dwyer, who said he is working with U.S. authorities on behalf of Hassan Golkanbhan, said his client is afraid of persecution because of his perceived political beliefs.

"He's perceived as not being a supporter, or being an opponent of the Iranian regime," O'Dwyer said. "Somebody who has betrayed the regime and who can no longer be trusted by them."

O'Dwyer said while the cameraman didn't have any suspicion cast on him before his trip to New York, "there were things that he was expected to do that he was uncomfortable with doing," and "while he was here... his position on certain things became known to the Iranian government."

When Golkanbhan's part of the Iranian delegation returned home last Thursday after Ahmadinejad's addressed the General Assembly on Wednesday, the cameraman stayed behind, O'Dwyer said.

Since then, O'Dwyer has filed an asylum application on Golkanbhan's behalf. The attorney says that filing provides his client immediate protection from deportation.

O'Dwyer called it a "very, very major decision," with implications for Golkanbhan's wife and two children, who have fled Iran for a haven he won't disclose for their safety.

"The Iranian govt has a fairly long reach, and you know, we're concerned about what may happen to them if they're identified by the government."

Golkanbhan is now waiting for an interview with U.S. authorities, which O'Dwyer says could happen soon -- or months from now.

Calls to the Iranian mission at the United Nations have not been returned, and the whereabouts of Golkanbhan are not clear.

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