Australia violated the human rights of an Iranian sheikh and his family when it expelled him without adequately explaining why ASIO suspected him of being a threat to national security, a United Nations committee has ruled.

"When I read the verdict I was in tears of joy," Sheikh Mansour Leghaei told Fairfax Media on Thursday, "because I thought, at last, I may be able prove to Australians that I did not betray them."

It is almost five years since he was forced to return to Iran with his wife and teenage daughter, leaving behind three adult sons in Sydney.

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