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Gay Iranian given hope by the UK's U-turn

  • Story Highlights
  • Britain says it will reconsider asylum application of a gay Iranian teenager
  • The 19-year-old has unsuccessfully sought asylum in UK and the Netherlands
  • Mehdi Kazemi says he will face persecution and maybe death in his homeland
  • Britain makes U-turn after European Parliament urged a resolution to the case
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LONDON, England (CNN) -- Britain says it will reconsider the asylum application of a gay Iranian teenager who claims he will be persecuted if he is returned home.

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Mehdi Kazemi believes he will face persecution if he is made to return to Iran.

Friday's announcement came after the European Parliament urged a resolution to the case and said that Iran routinely detained, tortured and executed homosexuals.

The case of 19-year-old Mehdi Kazemi has been in limbo after Britain initially rejected his asylum request.

He fled to the Netherlands and sought asylum there -- but the government turned him down, saying the case should be dealt with in Britain, where he first applied.

"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," British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said in a statement. Video See the latest twist in the teenager's case. »

Kazemi was studying in Britain in 2006 when he learned that his partner in Iran had been arrested, charged with sodomy, and hanged, according to Kazemi's uncle -- who spoke to CNN on condition that his name not be revealed because of safety concerns.

"Under torture and pressure, (the partner) revealed Mehdi's name as his boyfriend," the uncle said.

Homosexuality is illegal in Iran, and gay sex is considered a capital crime. Human rights groups allege the Iranian government targets gays with beatings, lashings and execution.

In Kazemi's application for asylum in Britain, he wrote that Iranian police were now after him, and he feared execution if he returned home.

Kazemi's father disowned him when he learned his son was gay, the uncle said.

Britain's Home Office initially rejected Kazemi's asylum application, saying that although homosexuality was illegal in Iran and gays did experience discrimination there, Britain did not believe that homosexuals were routinely persecuted purely because of their sexuality.

Kazemi then fled for Canada but ended up in the Netherlands, where he was detained.

He made three successive appeals for asylum in the Netherlands before the Council of State -- the highest Dutch court -- announced Tuesday that it rejected his plea.

The decision complied with a European Union agreement that an asylum application submitted in any EU country would be handled by that country alone, according to council spokeswoman Daniela Tempelman.

She said the regulation sought to ensure that an asylum seeker was not redirected from nation to nation simply because none would take responsibility for the case.Video Watch how teenager has lost his right to remain. »

In order for the Dutch court to consider Kazemi's asylum application, he needed to prove that Britain did not handle his asylum application properly, but he wasn't able to, Tempelman said.

His chances for appeal in the Netherlands now exhausted, Kazemi faces deportation to Britain.

The European Parliament passed a resolution Thursday demanding that a solution be found to Kazemi's case.

The resolution pointed out that the Iranian authorities "routinely detain, torture and execute persons, notably homosexuals" and that "Mehdi's partner has already been executed, while his father has threatened him with death."

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It said the EU and its member states could not send people back to countries where they risk persecution, torture and death because that would violate international human rights obligations.

The resolution asked EU member states "to find a common solution to ensure that Mehdi Kazemi is granted asylum or protection on EU soil and not sent back to Iran." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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