Gay Lebanese man gets asylum reviewA U.S. appeals court ruled on Monday that a gay Lebanese man with AIDS can seek asylum in the United States, agreeing that his fear of persecution in his native country was well-founded.
The decision reverses a ruling by the board of immigration appeals, which sided with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in saying that Nasser Mustapha Karouni could avoid persecution if he simply refrained from homosexual acts.
The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals disagreed, finding that "The Attorney General appears content with saddling Karouni with the Hobson's choice of returning to Lebanon and either facing persecution for engaging in future homosexual acts or living a life of celibacy. In our view, neither option is acceptable."
Victoria Neilson, legal director for Immigration Equality, an organization devoted to helping LGBT individuals immigrate to the United States, praised the ruling. "I think it's a great decision. The wording is very strong. I was really shocked that U.S. Immigration is still making the argument that homosexual conduct is different than homosexual status. The 9th Circuit soundly rejected that."
Karouni came to the United States on a visitor's visa in 1987 after the Islamic resistance group Hezbollah detained and threatened him for a relationship he had with another man. He applied for asylum in 1998, saying a former lover had been beaten and a gay cousin was shot and killed after surviving being shot in the anus two years before.
Karouni told the court he could not live anonymously in Lebanon since he was outed by a gay friend during a police interrogation during the mid-1990s. Karouni added that his identity in Lebanon would not be kept secret because his AIDS treatment would make him a target for persecution.
While the immigration court claimed Karouni's testimony was "full of supposition and devoid of supporting facts," the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals felt differently, writing, "Karouni, by virtue of his past homosexual acts alone, would certainly face at least a 10 percent chance that he will suffer persecution."
"Karouni's would-be persecutors appear sufficiently capable of sleuthing out their victims," the court added.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals did not rule on Karouni's asylum petition. Instead it remanded it to the Board of Immigration Appeals.
At press time there was no comment from Karouni's immigration attorney.
David Smith, vice president of policy for the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), said Karouni's case raised doubts about Attorney General Gonzales.
"The attorney general claims to condemn torture while sending a gay man home where he will likely be tortured," said Smith. "This duplicity is putting people's lives at risk, and it must stop. We urge the attorney general to ensure that asylum policy doesn't turn a blind eye to violence that amounts to torture based on sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination."