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Sunday, 14 December 2008

Cyprus grants asylum to gay Iranian


MEPs have welcomed the decision of Cyprus interior minister to grant resident status to an gay Iranian asylum seeker.

Labour's Michael Cashman, Lib Dem Baroness Ludford, Tory John Bowis and Greens Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas were among 13 MEPs who put their name to a parliamentary question to the European Commission on the issue.

They wanted to know if the refusal of asylum to Abbas Bagherian by Cyprus on the grounds of sexual orientation was a breach of EU directives.

After Cypriot MEP Panayiotis Demetriou raised the case in discussions with the interior minister, Mr Bagherian was granted residency.

"I strongly welcome the decision to allow Mr Bagherian to remain in Cyprus," said Baroness Ludford, Liberal Democrat justice and human rights spokeswoman and an MEP for London.

"A rejection of his application and his return to Iran would have left him vulnerable to imprisonment, torture and in the worst case the death penalty, simply for being gay.

"I hope that we are starting to see a general move in EU countries to recognise the validity of asylum claims based on the risk of persecution due to sexual orientation.

"There should be a consistent EU policy, because such fears may be absolutely justified regarding a country like Iran."

According to Doros Polykarpou, the director the Cypriot immigrant support group KISA, Mr Bagherian came to Cyprus and applied for asylum in June 2004 and for the last three years he has been living with his Cypriot partner.

Mr Bagherian had an initial interview at the Asylum Service in July 2005. At the interview, he was did not reveal that the real cause of his persecution in Iran was his sexual orientation. This was because he was afraid that this information would have been leaked to the Iranian authorities and, in case of a rejection of his application, he would face imprisonment, torture or even death sentence if he was returned to Iran.

Then in April 2007, he informed the Asylum Service of his sexuality and had another interview, saying he was arrested and detained at the age of 15 because of his homosexual relations.

In addition, Mr Bagherian informed the Asylum Service that he had been arrested a further four times by the authorities in Iran and had detained and beaten up.

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