Iranian refugee who sewed eyes up wins case

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The Independent Online

The Iranian dissident who sewed up his eyes, lips and ears in protest at the handling of his asylum claim won his fight to remain in Britain last night.

But Abas Amini, 33, vowed to continue his hunger strike to highlight the plight of all asylum-seekers. Friends tried to persuade him to stop after a Home Office appeal against the decision to grant him asylum was thrown out by the Independent Appeal Tribunal.

But Mr Amini, who lives in Sneinton, Nottingham, said: "If anything, it has saddened me because I feel guilty about other friends and supporters. I will continue. I do this because of what is happening to other asylum-seekers."

His adviser, Sam Azad, of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, said: "His welfare is our greatest concern and we wish he had never started it. He is quite alert and had a very clear conversation with his solicitor. He is sitting in his chair and has his head in his hands because he is obviously in quite a lot of pain."

Doctors are worried that Mr Amini who has been on hunger strike since Tuesday of last week, could die within days.

The breakthrough in his case came when the Independent Appeal Tribunal refused the Home Office's leave to appeal against the ruling allowing him to stay.

A Home Office spokeswoman said it accepted the decision and added the timing of the announcement, as controversy raged over his case, was coincidental. She said: "It has been handled entirely according to normal procedures."

About 200 people protested yesterday outside Mr Amini's Nottingham home, to demonstrate their support.

Mr Amini, a former guerrilla fighter who had been an activist against the Iranian regime for 21 years, has been jailed several times, the final time for writing poems criticising the Islamic regime. He said he was kept in solitary confinement and tortured, and would be killed if he returned home. Mr Amini escaped from prison and travelled across Europe, claiming asylum in Britain in August 2001.

After five adjournments, an immigration tribunal finally ruled that he could stay, but the Home Office, which was not represented at the hearing, appealed against the decision.

At that moment he decided to launch his protest based on similar action last year by 70 mainly Afghan asylum-seekers held at a remote base in Woomera, Australia.

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