Scotland’s governing party has taken up the case of a gay Syrian who claims he will be tortured and maybe even executed if returned to his home country.
Jojo Jako Yakob is claiming asylum in the UK on the grounds of his sexual orientation and had pleaded with the Home Office to reverse a deportation order.
Pete Wishart MP, the SNP’s Home Affairs spokesman, has taken up his case at Westminster and has vowed to make representations to the Home Office.
He said: “After Mr Yakob’s terrible ordeal in Syria, it is unacceptable that the Home Office would consider sending him back.
“There is a very real risk that he would suffer further ill treatment or even possibly death.
“He has sought asylum in Scotland and I will make an immediate representation to the Home Office in an effort to overturn their ruling before his final hearing in May.”
However, as asylum is not an issue devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the SNP are powerless to do any more than protest on behalf of Mr Yakob to the Home Office.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, the SNP MSP for the Lothians, has lodged a parliamentary motion supporting Mr Yakob that has been suported by a number of MSPs including: Jamie Hepburn, Roseanna Cunningham, Rob Gibson, Christina McKelvie, Patrick Harvie, Bill Kidd, Alex Neil, Joe FitzPatrick, Robin Harper, Elaine Smith, Gil Paterson, Sandra White, Iain Smith, Dr Bill Wilson, Dr Christopher Harvie, Jamie McGrigor and Michael Matheson.
Mrs Somerville told the Scotland on Sunday, a newspaper that led a campaign for Mr Yakob:
“I felt that it was very important to raise a motion so that politicians of all parties could support the campaign.
“We need an urgent review of the cases currently ongoing in Scotland so that we don’t have anyone sent home and face persecution and violence.”
A deportation order was enacted against him after he was arrested for possession of a fake Belgian passport and placed in Polmont Young Offenders Institution in Scotland.
Mr Yakob fled Syria when he was faced with persecution and arrest because of his sexual orientation.
The 19-year-old is to launch a legal challenge in order to reverse the deportation order so he can spend the rest of his life in Scotland.
He escaped Syria two years ago after surviving severe abuse at the hands of the Syrian police and prison guards, when he was arrested for distributing anti-government leaflets.
Following his transfer from police interrogation, prison guards soon discovered that Mr Yakob was homosexual.
He then suffered horrific beatings and was assaulted so badly that he fell into a coma.
After being transferred to hospital, he managed to flee to Lebanon making for London hidden in a lorry.
He applied for asylum and was granted extended leave by the Home Office, but was then arrested in Aberdeen last April after being found in possession of a fake Belgian passport.
He was handed a 12-month sentence and sent to Polmont Young
Offenders Unit in Falkirk.
His lawyers say his asylum application was then mistakenly withdrawn and, as a result, he has been served with a deportation order, pending a final hearing this May.
If Mr Yakob is deported to Syria, it is likely that he will be rearrested and could potentially face the same kind of abuse that caused him to flee to the UK.
Talking about the ordeal that he faced, Mr Yakob told the Scotland on Sunday:
“I was tortured. I was beaten. At one point I was put up against a wall and a handgun pointed at me.
“I was told that if I did not tell the authorities what they wanted to know they would shoot me dead.
“I did not tell them anything, I did not think they would shoot me.
“The police officer then shot me in my upper left arm. At that point, I told them what they wanted to know as I believed that they would shoot me dead.”
Mr Yakob says he was held in police cells for 20 days without charge and subjected to daily electric shock torture and beatings before being transferred to Ahdas Prison, near the Turkish border.
In prison, he formed a relationship with a gay prisoner named Hassain.
Mr Yakob explained: “Hassain was serving a sentence, he told me, for 25 years.
“He told me that the sentence was only because he was gay.”
After the pair were seen sleeping together in jail, Mr Yakob said he was subjected to systematic beatings, which “went on for days into weeks.”
“I was also subjected to cold-water torture, where I was put in a room and buckets of cold water were constantly thrown over me,” he told Scotland on Sunday.
“I could not remember what day it was or how long I had been in prison.
“One day I woke up in hospital in a nearby town of Kamishli. The doctor who was treating me told me that I had been in a coma for 20 days.
“He said to the authorities that I could not return to prison as I was not fit and I could not stand trial until I had had a rest. He suggested that I be sent home for recuperation.”
A spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London denied that torture of gay people took place.
“Homosexuality is illegal in Syria, but there are no special units to deal with this problem,” he told Scotland on Sunday.
“People are not prosecuted – society looks at this as a disease for which they can be treated – it is a similar position to that taken by the Vatican.
“I cannot give a clearer answer.”
Mr Yakob will appear before a full immigration hearing in Glasgow on May 7th to determine his fate.
His case is similar to that of Mehdi Kazemi, 19, who was studying in the UK and applied for asylum after his boyfriend was arrested and reportedly executed in Tehran.
The boyfriend named Mehdi as a homosexual, and police turned up at his father’s house with a warrant to arrest him.
His asylum application was unsuccessful in the UK, so Mehdi fled to Holland.
The Dutch authorities ruled he should be returned to the UK but after a campaign led by members of the House of Lords and MEPs the Home Office has decided to review his case.