Gay Iranian demands guarantee he can stay

A gay teenager spared an immediate return to Iran, where he claims he faces the death penalty, said yesterday that he will only feel safe if the Home Secretary personally guarantees his right to remain in Britain.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who lost his asylum claim in Britain even though it was alleged that his former boyfriend was executed for sodomy, spoke openly of his distrust of the Government.

His case has already provoked a public outcry, forcing the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to agree to reconsider his claim for refugee status. But speaking from a detention centre in Rotterdam, where he is being held after fleeing to the Netherlands, Mr Kazemi said he fears for his future. "I know what Jacqui Smith has said about my case and that of course is a good thing," he said. "But I know what this government can do to me. They tried to take me at Christmas time two years ago when everyone was away, even my lawyer."

It was only the intervention of his MP, the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, which prevented his deportation. In an 11th hour appeal, Mr Hughes persuaded the Home Office to halt the deportation so that he could look into the case.

"I can not be confident they won't try this again, perhaps in the Easter holiday," Mr Kazemi said yesterday. "These things have happened to me before. What they haven't done is promise me I won't go back to Iran."

A Dutch appeal court ruled on Tuesday that Mr Kazemi could not claim asylum in the country.

He is allowed just one hour a week when he can meet visitors. Last week he used it to see family friends, and asked for CDs and science fiction books.

But his attention has now turned to his transfer to Britain. "If I am allowed to stay in this country I want to continue with my English studies. I like it in England, I felt safe and much freer. If I go back to Iran it will be most certainly death for me."

During his asylum appeal the Government told Mr Kazemi he would be safe in Iran if he was discreet about his sexuality. This is something that he believes is impossible to do. He said that for gay people in Iran it was "like a genocide no one will talk about". Mr Kazemi says he misses his family in Iran, although he knows his father has disowned him. "I miss my mother and my little sister a lot, but by father wants to kill me, he does not accept me."

MPs and gay rights groups were hoping last night that the Home Secretary would grant Mr Kazemi his wish. Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "It is the strong view of my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I that, in the current political climate, there should be an immediate moratorium on deporting gay people to Iran. To do otherwise is tantamount to the government endorsing state-sanctioned murder."

Announcing the decision to rehear Mr Kazemi's case, Ms Smith said on Thursday: "Following representations made on behalf of Mehdi Kazemi, 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."

Mr Kazemi is expected to arrive next week after the Dutch deputy justice minister has made a statement to the Netherlands parliament about his case.

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