The U.S. Board of Immigration Appeals has been ordered by a federal court to
review the plea of a gay Serbian man who said he was
discriminated against when he originally applying for asylum.
Mladen Zeljko Todorovic was deemed an incredible witness by the immigration judge hearing his case, as he provided his own testimony to explain the violence and abuse he endured while living in Serbia, according to court documents from the 11th circuit court of appeals released Tuesday.
Todorovic came out to his classmates in a Serbian high school in 1999 and thereafter was bullied to the point that he was forced to drop out. After Todorovic's father beat him and kicked him out of the house, he was forced to join the military, where two former classmates in his unit outed him. Other members of his unit continuously raped and abused him until he reported their activities. Todorovic was eventually discharged, and the abusers reportedly received light punishment. Todorovic decided, after a particularly debilitating assault, to work on a cruise ship. He went to Miami in April 2000 to work on a ship docked there. Once he got to Miami, his then-boyfriend informed him that a rash of violence had broken out over Serbia's first gay rights parade.
When Todorovic applied for asylum, he submitted as evidence several articles about the antigay sentiment in Serbia, the medical records documenting an attack he suffered, and also provided oral testimony. However, the immigration judge ruled, "The Court would first note that the respondent says that he is singled out for persecution because he is gay in his home country. The Court studied the demeanor of this individual very carefully throughout his testimony in Court today, and this gentleman does not appear to be overtly gay."
The judge added that his asylum request was untimely, a finding that was later upheld by the board of asylum.
The appeals court wrote that the judge's and later the board's conclusion did not need to stereotype Todorovic, and therefore the board must review its opinion.