Page last updated at 08:56 GMT, Wednesday, 21 May 2008 09:56 UK

Gay Iranian granted asylum in UK

Iranian hangman
Iran has regularly executed people convicted of homosexual acts

A gay Iranian teenager who said he could be executed if he was sent home has been given asylum in Britain.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, came to London to study English in 2005, but later discovered his boyfriend had been charged with sodomy in Iran and hanged.

A 38-year-old Iranian soldier who deserted rather than lay anti-personnel landmines also won the right to stay.

The soldier, identified only as BE, fled to Britain after refusing to plant mines in roads.

In March 2001 the home secretary refused the man's claim for asylum, saying he had not only undertaken military service but had signed up as a regular soldier "without any apparent qualms".

'Individual merits'

The conclusion drawn was that civilian deaths were an unfortunate consequence of war which did not justify desertion.

But this was overturned by judges who ruled the soldier was entitled to succeed in his claim for international protection.

Where Mr Kazemi's case is concerned, in March the home secretary agreed to reconsider his situation after his first asylum bid failed.

The UK Border Agency now says it will allow him asylum after reviewing his case.

A spokesman said: "The UK Border Agency considers each case on its individual merits and will continue to provide refuge for those asylum seekers with a genuine need for protection.

"We keep cases under review where circumstances have changed and it has been decided that Mr Kazemi should be granted leave to remain in the UK based on the particular facts of this case."

The Home Office should not send gay and lesbian people back to countries where they will be at risk of persecution, torture or death
Simon Hughes MP

Liberal Democrat MP Simon Hughes, who led the campaign to get Mr Kazemi granted asylum, said: "Like Mehdi and his family in Britain, I am delighted to hear of the Home Office decision to let him stay in this country. This is great news for a very decent man.

"As I have argued over the last 18 months, the Home Office should not send gay and lesbian people back to countries where they will be at risk of persecution, torture or death."

Iranian human rights campaigners believe more than 4,000 gay men and lesbians have been executed since 1979.

Mr Kazemi fled to the Netherlands after the Home Office rejected his case late last year, but a Dutch court ruled he could not claim asylum in the Netherlands.

Jacqui Smith said his case would be reviewed after he was sent back to the UK.


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