Australia deports U.S. peace activist because of security concerns

An American peace activist was deported from Australia on security grounds, as protesters alleged a government conspiracy to silence opposition to the Iraq war.

Scott Parkin, of Houston, Texas, had been in police custody in the southern city of Melbourne since he was arrested Saturday and told his tourist visa had been canceled because he was a threat to national security.

Parkin, who arrived in Australia in June, had been interviewed on national television as one of the leaders of a recent street protest in Sydney against U.S. energy company Halliburton's commercial interests in Iraq.

He had also exercised his legal right to refuse to be interviewed by Australia's secret service days before his arrest, his lawyers said.

Immigration Department spokesman David Seale said Parkin left the country Thursday.

Seale would not confirm media reports that he left Melbourne accompanied by two government escorts on a Qantas flight to Los Angeles.

Protesters who demonstrated against the deportation outside Melbourne Airport on Thursday said Parkin posed no threat to national security.

"The only threat that Scott could represent is a threat of embarrassment and exposure of a government that has supported the war on Iraq," friend and protester Iain Murray told reporters.

Attorney-General Philip Ruddock, who is responsible for the national spy agency Australian Security Intelligence Organization, denied any political influence in the decision to deport Parkin.

The Age newspaper reported that unnamed officials said Parkin's visa was canceled because of what he was teaching in peace workshops in Australia, including techniques for preventing police from taking protesters away for arrest.

In his only public statement after his arrest, Parkin said Wednesday he was baffled by his deportation, the AP reports.

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