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Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Update: Denial of US asylum to gay Saudi diplomat

South façade of the White House, the executive...Image via Wikipedia
By Paul Canning

Last week I reported on how a gay Saudi diplomat had been denied US asylum. It was claimed that this was for political reasons.

Jason Dzubow who writes for The Asylumist and is an immigration attorney who specializes in political asylum, immigration court and appeals points out that the initial decision of the case is correct in law.

The story, as reported first on Arab news website Rasheed’s World, quotes a Saudi dissident living in Washington DC, Ali al-Ahmed. He is is the founder and director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs (formerly the Saudi Institute), an independent think tank in Washington, DC. He has testified before Congress on several occasions on the issue of civil rights and religious freedom in the Middle East.

al-Ahmed said:
“This was a political decision by the Obama administration, who are afraid of upsetting the Saudis.”
He told the news website that the diplomat, Ali Ahmed Asseri:
“Had been an inspector to make sure that judicial punishments, such as lashings, were carried out within the law—not more, not less.”
And reported that the Asylum Office member who interviewed Asseri “then accused him of participating in a form of torture.”

Dzubow points out that people who persecute others are barred by statute from obtaining asylum.
“There is nothing political about this, and it has nothing to do with the Obama Administration somehow trying to appease the Saudis,” he writes.
Dzubow says that, despite this background, Asseri is possibly eligible for ‘Withholding of Removal‘. This is relief ‘to prevent removal to a country where the alien has a clear probability to suffer persecution based on race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.’ Ironically, he is “certainly eligible for relief under the UN Convention Against Torture” because of  Saudi Arabia’s treatment of gay people, Dzubow says.

As al-Ahmed reports, Asseri has appealed the refusal of asylum and will thus get his day in court — where Dzubow says, as a high-profile gay man, he probably has a good chance of gaining US sanctuary.

Ali Ahmed Asseri was the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. It was reported last year that he told US officials that his diplomatic passport was not renewed after Saudi officials discovered him going to gay bars and that he was close friends with a Jewish woman. He had also posted a critical note on a Saudi website, it was reported, and threatened to make public embarrassing information on members of the Saudi royal family living in the US.

Last year Ally Bolour, his lawyer, told NBC that other Saudis had been granted asylum by the US on grounds of sexual orientation, but Asseri’s case was unusual because of his diplomatic status. Another gay Saudi asylum case was approved quickly in Dallas in September this year.

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