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Iranian lesbian must not be deported to torture and death

September 13, 2007 8:30 PM

London Liberal Democrat MEP Baroness Sarah Ludford has called on the Home Secretary to urgently review the case of Iranian Ms Pegah Emambakhsh, whose claim for refugee status on grounds of being persecuted as a lesbian has been refused and who is now reportedly at imminent risk of deportation.

Ms Emambakhsh is currently being held in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Reports indicate that she is in danger of being stoned to death if returned to Iran because of her sexual orientation. Ms Emambakhsh escaped Iran after her partner was arrested, tortured and stoned to death. Her father was also arrested and interrogated under torture regarding her whereabouts.

Sarah Ludford, who is vice-chair of the European parliament's human rights sub-committee, said:

"The UK has a moral and legal obligation to give refugee protection to people who would face persecution, torture, and possible death if returned home. Ms Emambakhsh falls into that category and I fail to understand why the UK government is shirking its responsibility."

"The government's policy regarding persecution against gay people seems less than full-hearted. I was told when I took up the case of an Algerian in 2005, that his appeal was dismissed since he 'could return to Algeria, as homosexuality is tolerated as long as it is not expressed explicitly in public.'

"For the British government to say that there is no persecution if a gay person can live clandestinely though not as openly gay is absurd. That does not give satisfactory protection, since such persons cannot be properly free to be who they are. In any case, this 'blind eye' policy is not the position in Iran where oppression of homosexual people is pro-active."