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Last Updated: Monday, 16 July 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
'How I escaped from torture in Iran'
By Russell Joslin
BBC News

Shahin Portofeh
Shahin Portofeh sewed up his eyes and lips in 2003
An asylum seeker who was deported to Iran in 2004 has been describing how he managed to escape from custody and make his way back to the UK.

In this three-part series, the BBC News Website follows Shahin Portofeh's story, from deportation and alleged torture in Iran, to his escape and flight to the UK in an arduous and dangerous journey across Turkey, Greece and Italy.

Shahin Portofeh was so scared at the prospect of being deported from Coventry back to Iran that he sewed up his eyes and lips in July 2003 in an effort to draw attention to his case.

Having had a gay relationship, Mr Portofeh, now 27, knew he faced the prospect of being repeatedly lashed and then executed if he was returned to his homeland, where homosexuality is illegal.

But the Home Office decided to deport him, sending him back to Tehran in 2004.

Mr Portofeh described his terror on the day he thought might be his last as a free man.

They tortured me, beat me up, asked me what I was doing in England, who was supporting me
"They kicked my bedroom door in and just threw themselves on me - I was really, really frightened.

"Just a few minutes later an immigration officer walked into the room and said: 'We're going to deport you to Iran.'

"I was begging them, asking them: 'Please don't deport me' but straight away they took me to the airport and the very same day they deported me back to Tehran."

Mr Portofeh said that the ill treatment began as soon as he touched down.

"When I arrived there straight away they put me in the airport detention centre and they kept me there two days.

Sixty lashes

"It was really, really cold without any glass in the windows. It was snowing - I was really cold - I only had my T-shirt on and they kept me two days there without any food.

"My profile was handed to the NSA - the National Security Agency.

"They tortured me, beat me up, asked me what I was doing in England, who was supporting me, whose idea was it to stitch up my face and lips and be against the Iranian government.

A guard pulled up my T-shirt and stubbed his cigarette on me

"They didn't show me any mercy... kicking me, punching me and sometimes using their batons to beat me up.

"They just beat me up and made ready my case to the court.

"The judge sentenced me to 60 lashes and the same day they lashed me - that was really painful.

"I was begging them for some treatment, asking them for some medicine, some painkillers, but they didn't show any mercy.

"He (a guard) just pulled up my T-shirt and stubbed his cigarette on me."

Prison escape

Mr Portofeh explained how he bribed a fellow prisoner to make a key for him while he was awaiting his next court hearing, where he faced the prospect of a death sentence.

He said he smuggled the key into the court under his tongue.

"They left me on a metal bench and handcuffed me to the bench.

"I was really frightened even to do this... it was the only way to save my life.

"I unlocked both the shackles and the handcuffs but I let them stay on my arms so it looked like they were locked and put the shackles under the bench.

"I was so lucky I hadn't any prison uniform on. A crowd of people were at the court. It was really busy. I got outside.

"Fifty yards away I found my brothers had parked the car by the road. I jumped in the car and straight away just drove away."

The Home Office said it did not comment on individual cases.

Mr Portofeh eventually returned to the UK in 2005 and settled in Manchester. He has since been given leave to remain for five years.

In part two of Mr Portofeh's story, he recounts how he fled Iran across the mountains to Turkey, eventually making his way to Greece where he was placed in detention once more.

Asylum seeker loses fight to stay
20 Jul 04 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
Asylum seeker ends deportation protest
11 Jul 03 |  West Midlands
Asylum seeker sews up eyes
08 Jul 03 |  West Midlands

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