Jacqui Smith to review asylum case of gay Iranian man

Home secretary Jacqui Smith has announced she will review the deportation of a gay Iranian, Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who faced execution in Iran for his sexuality.

Kazemi’s former boyfriend was executed for sodomy in April 2006 but under interrogation had given Kazemi’s name to the authorities.

After his original asylum application had been turned down in the UK last year, Kazemi had fled to Holland. But under EU law asylum applications can only be heard in the country where it was first claimed. This left Kazemi having to return to the UK, and then Iran, where police had issued a warrant for his arrest.

Smith’s intervention has been hailed as a victory by gay rights activists who have been campaigning on Kazemi’s behalf. Last night she said: “Following representations, and in the light of new circumstances since the original decision was made, I have decided that Mr Kazemi’s case should be reconsidered on his return to the UK from the Netherlands.”

The UK government has long recognised that gay people in Iran faced capital punishment but rejected Kazemi’s asylum claim as it did not consider there was “systematic” repression of homosexuals. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979 it is thought that some 4,000 gay people, some of whom were still teenagers, have been executed in Iran by hanging while many more have endured torture and beatings.

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