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Gay Saudi diplomat pleads for U.S. asylum

September 15, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
A gay Saudi diplomat is seeking political asylum in the U.S., claiming his life is in danger if he returns home. He says his sexuality has cost him his job at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Los Angeles, and he now fears it could cost him his life.Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia. Human rights activists say men have been killed for being gay. That's why a Saudi diplomat at the L.A. consulate is now asking for political asylum.

In an e-mail sent to news organizations, including the L.A. Times, Ali Ahmad Asseri says: "My life is in great danger here and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight."

Asseri says his position at the consulate was terminated and he was ordered to return home where he fears he will be persecuted.

"In this case, he is claiming it's because of his membership in a social group as a Saudi Arabian homosexual, and that is a very legitimate basis for asylum," said Daniel Hanlon, an immigration and nationality attorney.

It's not just Asseri's sexuality that has him in fear for his life. He has also befriended a Jewish woman.

According to acquaintances, Asseri is now in hiding.

In Asseri's e-mail, he said: "I am severely angry that I have been forced to be in this situation because of my personal life. It's not fair and I will not let it go."

Asseri posted a personal appeal to King Abdullah on a popular Arabic website, but he also railed against the backwardness of Saudi officials and militant imams.

Neither Asseri nor his attorney, nor Saudi or U.S. officials would comment on the case.

"There would be some pressure, potentially, in both directions on this case, but I think the main focus would be on application of the law," said Hanlon.

No word on when Asseri may learn his fate, but experts say given the public and political publicity of the case, it may be some time before a decision is reached.