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Gay Guatemalan's
Appeal for Asylum Denied

Gay Guatemalan's
Appeal for Asylum Denied

A Guatemalan man who sought asylum in the United States was denied his appeal by the ninth circuit court of appeals Monday because, the judges said, he had lied under oath. Saul Martinez had said in his first immigration hearing that he faced political persecution if he were deported to Guatemala but later admitted he feared for his life because he's gay, according to the Contra Costa Times. Two of the three judges on the panel wrote that it would be a "manifest injustice" to allow Martinez to win asylum after lying under oath.

A Guatemalan man who sought asylum in the United States was denied his appeal by a panel of the San Francisco-based ninth circuit court of appeals Monday because, the judges said, he had lied under oath.

Saul Martinez had said in his first immigration hearing that he would face political persecution if he were deported to Guatemala but later admitted he feared for his life because he's gay, according to the Contra Costa Times, a Northern California newspaper. Two of the three judges on the panel wrote that it would be a "manifest injustice" to allow Martinez to win asylum even after lying under oath. The third judge said it was understandable for a man who was targeted for being gay to protect himself by inventing a story.

Martinez initially requested asylum after entering California in 1992. He said the Guatemalan government threatened him because he was the leader of a student group at the University of San Carlos, a school known for being radical and a frequent target of government-backed repression.

"I am afraid to return Guatemala because many of my companions [disappeared] completely and I can ... disappear likewise," Martinez wrote in his first request in 1992. "I was constantly threatened by the Government and my life was in more danger than the rest of the people of my country. If I didn't leave, I would have been killed."

Martinez added to his claim in 1995, saying he started getting threatening phone calls in 1991 because of his participation in a politically toned parade. He also said he was chased by a car on two separate occasions and shot at, possibly by government forces.

Immigration officials found that Martinez created a ruse for investigators by coming up with an elaborate story, according to a 1995 report on Martinez's case. He later admitted his account was "partially incorrect" but said the persecution he endured was because of his sexual orientation.

The dissenting judge, Harry Pregerson, said that when Martinez requested asylum in 1992, being gay was not yet recognized in immigration law as a basis for asylum. He said Martinez was wrong in initially giving a false account, but he still disagreed with the majority opinion, saying that the other judges failed to put Martinez's case into context.

"It is not hard to imagine ... that a gay man who has suffered persecution on account of his sexual orientation would hide that fact from government authorities," Pregerson wrote.

Judges John Noonan and Stephen Trott said Martinez's failure to disclose his sexual orientation hurt his case. Martinez never faced problems from the U.S. government and "spent more than three years in the Los Angeles area freely associating with other gays," they wrote in the majority opinion.

Denial of the appeal means Martinez will be deported to Guatemala. (Michelle Garcia, The Advocate)

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