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Fear of persecution gets gay Lebanese man asylum hearing

Fear of persecution gets gay Lebanese man asylum hearing

A gay Lebanese man suffering from AIDS has enough reason to fear persecution in his native country that he shouldn't be deported while he is seeking asylum in the United States, a federal appeals court has ruled. The ninth U.S. circuit court of appeals, reversing the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals in Washington, found Monday that Nassier Mustapha Karouni's fear of being arrested, tortured, or killed in a country where homosexuality is considered a crime was based in fact and not just emotion. "The record demonstrates that...militants and certain factions of the Lebanese and local governments are a credible threat to homosexuals like Karouni," Judge Harry Pregerson wrote for the three-judge panel. In determining that Karouni's sexual orientation makes him eligible for refugee status, the court rejected the Justice Department's argument that Karouni could avoid the fate of gay friends who were beaten, jailed, or murdered if he refrained from having sex upon his return home. "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," Pregerson wrote. The court did not rule on Karouni's asylum petition but remanded it to the Board of Immigration Appeals. Karouni's immigration lawyer, Douglas Nelson of San Diego, declined to comment on Monday's ruling. He said Karouni is afraid his family in Lebanon will be ostracized or worse. Karouni first came to the United States on a visitor's visa in 1987 and applied for asylum in 1998. Immigration officials ordered him deported for overstaying his visa, and he appealed, citing the experience of a former lover who was beaten and a gay cousin who was shot in the anus and later killed, allegedly by members of the militant Islamic group Hezbollah. He also testified that two men armed with machine guns came to his apartment after learning that he had been in a relationship with another man and that if he returned to Lebanon, he would not be able to receive treatment for AIDS. (Lisa Leff, AP)

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