The Italian government has said that it will grant asylum to an Iranian lesbian who faces possibly being stoned to death if returned to her home country by the UK.

The 40 year old woman, Pegah Emambakhsh, first applied to for asylum in the UK in 2005. She is currently being held by immigration officials and is set to be returned to Iraq this week after her appeals were rejected by the UK’s Border and Immigration Agency.

Now a spokesperson for the Italian government has said that Italy is prepared to offer Emambakhs asylum, following lobbying by Italian activists. According to news website Adnkronos International, the asylum offer has the support of Italy’s Prime Minister Romano Prodi and other prominent politicians.

It remains uncertain however as to the legality of one country offering asylum to a person who is being deported by another country. Meanwhile, activists have planned a sit-in protest outside the British Embassy in Rome today.

If returned to Iran, Emambakhsh could face imprisonment as well as 100 lashes and possibly even being stoned to death – all because she is a lesbian. Emambakhsh escaped from Iran after the arrest and torture of her female lover and father.

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