The UK Government is to review the case of Mehdi Kazemi after the European Parliament expressed its support for a motion tabled by Michael Cashman MEP.
Meeting in Strasbourg, the Parliament voted 46 to two, with 12 abstentions, to support Mr. Cashman’s motion which was backed by the Liberal (ALDE), Socialist (PSE) and Green groups.
Fears that the European People’s Party (EPP) would scupper the motion were allayed after they decided to abstain instead.
After the vote, in London British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said that Mehdi’s case would be reviewed.
“Following representations made on behalf of Mehdi Kazemi, and in the light of new circumstances since the original decision was made, I have decided that Mr Kazemi’s case should be reconsidered on his return to the UK from the Netherlands,” she said in a statement.
Mehdi Kazemi is a 19 year old gay Iranian national who applied for asylum in the United Kingdom following the execution of his former partner by Iranian authorities after being found guilty of sodomy. When his asylum application was turned down Kazemi fled to the Netherlands.
The European Parliament resolution drew attention to the fact that European Union asylum law has to be applied by member states on an individual case basis and suggests that persecution for sexual orientation should be an automatic ground to grant asylum.
It also called on the EU institutions and Member States, under their European and international human rights obligations, to take action to avoid such situations as Mehdi Kazemi’s occurring in the future.
Mr. Cashman, who, as president of the European Parliament’s Lesbian and Gay Intergroup, co-signed the motion, welcomed the result.
“This is a fantastic result and I now hope that the UK government takes on board the recommendation and listens to the voice of the Parliament,” he said.
Liberal Democrats also welcomed today’s developments.
Responding to Jacqui Smith’s announcement, Lib Dem Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne said the decision was not before time.
“There should be no deportations of gay people back to Iran while we know the fate that lies in store for them.”
Commenting further, Liberal Democrat MP for Southwark and North Bermondsey, Simon Hughes, who has campaigned on behalf of Mehdi Kazemi, said: “This public confirmation of the Government’s position is very welcome.
“I hope Mr Kazemi will now come back to Britain where arrangements are already in place for an urgent meeting with him, his family, specialist lawyers and myself to prepare a new application to the Home Office.
“It is becoming more and more clear that sending gay people back to Iran under the present regime is completely unacceptable.”
Speaking in Strasbourg, Jean Lambert, the Green Party MEP from London said that the deportation of anyone to a third country where they risk persecution, torture and death amounts to a violation of European and international human rights obligations.”
“There is no doubt that Mehdi Kazemi will be in danger if returned, his former partner has been executed and his own father has threatened to kill him.
“Obviously this is an extremely distressing situation for him and the Member States involved should resolve his status as quickly as possible.”
Mehdi Kazemi is still in a Dutch detention centre in Rotterdam awaiting removal to the United Kingdom. There is no indication yet as to when he is to be returned.