Gay teenager faces return to Iran after Dutch ruling

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The Independent Online

A gay teenager who claims he faces the death penalty in Iran after his boyfriend was executed there two years ago has spoken of his anger and disappointment at losing his legal battle against deportation.

Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who sought sanctuary in Britain in 2005 when he discovered that his partner had been hanged in Tehran for engaging in homosexual acts, is expected to be returned to Iran in the next few weeks.

Mr Kazemi fled to Holland from Britain last year after the Home Office rejected his claim for asylum. But yesterday, a Dutch court ruled that he should be sent back to Britain after refusing to consider his claim for asylum.

Speaking from an immigration detention centre in Rotterdam, Mr Kazemi told his uncle, a British citizen, that he was "very, very angry" at the decision, which will see him returned to Britain within 72 hours.

He believed he would have had a much better chance of protection from deportation to Iran in Holland, according to his uncle. But yesterday, Holland's highest administrative court rejected his lawyers' arguments that the UK asylum and immigration system did not take proper account of international conventions that uphold the rights of refugees.

Mr Kazemi arrived in London as a student in 2004, after which his boyfriend was arrested by Iranian police, charged with sodomy and hanged. In a telephone conversation with his father in Tehran, Mr Kazemi was told that, before the execution in April 2006, his boyfriend had been questioned about sexual relations he had with other men and under interrogation had named Mr Kazemi as his partner.

Fearing for his life if he returned to Iran, Mr Kazemi claimed asylum in Britain. But in 2007 his case was refused. Terror-stricken at the prospect of being sent home, the young Iranian made a desperate attempt to evade deportation and fled to Holland.

"There is no doubt that Mehdi will be arrested and probably executed if he is sent back there," said his 51-year-old uncle, a salesman from Hampshire. "The police have issued a warrant for his arrest. He will be in terrible danger if he goes back."

Mr Kazemi's father has also told him that if the state doesn't kill him, he will. "His father is very angry but his mother still loves him. She is extremely worried for him but she is in a very difficult position. In Iran, mothers don't stop loving their children because they are gay."

Mr Kazemi's only hope now is that the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith will exercise her discretion and intervene in his case, or that either the European Court of Human Rights or the European Court of Justice agree to consider the wider implications of gay Iranian asylum-seekers. Mr Kazemi's case is be debated by the European Parliament tomorrow.

Last night, his case was taken up by Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, who wrote to Ms Smith to urge the Government to end the return of all gay asylum-seekers to Iran. "It seems absolutely clear that any gay or lesbian person sent back to Iran is at risk of their lives," he said. "Such returns must be stopped."

Jean Lambert, a Green Party MEP for London, who has signed an appeal to the European Commission and the prime ministers of the UK and the Netherlands regarding the Kazemi case, said: "The law is clear that no one should be returned to a country where their life would be in danger and it seems that Mr Kazemi has a very strong case for asylum."

Omar Kuddus of Gay Asylum UK added: "This is a bitter defeat and the deportation back to Iran must be stopped at any cost."

A Home Office spokeswoman confirmed Mr Kazemi had exhausted all his domestic avenues of appeal and could expect to be detained pending his deportation. But she added: "Any further representations will be considered on their merits taking into account all the circumstances."

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