MEPs have welcomed the decision of Cyprus interior minister to grant resident status to an gay Iranian asylum seeker.

Labour’s Michael Cashman, Lib Dem Baroness Ludford, Tory John Bowis and Greens Jean Lambert and Caroline Lucas were among 13 MEPs who put their name to a parliamentary question to the European Commission on the issue.

They wanted to know if the refusal of asylum to Abbas Bagherian by Cyprus on the grounds of sexual orientation was a breach of EU directives.

After Cypriot MEP Panayiotis Demetriou raised the case in discussions with the interior minister, Mr Bagherian was granted residency.

“I strongly welcome the decision to allow Mr Bagherian to remain in Cyprus,” said Baroness Ludford, Liberal Democrat justice and human rights spokeswoman and an MEP for London.

“A rejection of his application and his return to Iran would have left him vulnerable to imprisonment, torture and in the worst case the death penalty, simply for being gay.

“I hope that we are starting to see a general move in EU countries to recognise the validity of asylum claims based on the risk of persecution due to sexual orientation.

“There should be a consistent EU policy, because such fears may be absolutely justified regarding a country like Iran.”

The treatment of lesbian and gay Iranians in the UK became a subject of controversy earlier this year when a campaign by The Independent newspaper, MPs, MEPs, gay rights groups and members of the House of Lords led Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to grant asylum to a young Iranian man.

Mehdi Kazemi, 20, left Iran in 2004 to travel to England on a student visa and continue his education.

Two years later while still in the UK he learned that Iranian authorities had arrested his boyfriend Parham, who had been forced to name Mr Kazemi as someone with whom he had had a relationship.

Mr Kazemi’s father then received a visit from the Tehran police, with an arrest warrant for his son.

In late April 2006, Medhi’s uncle told him Parham had been put to death.

Mr Kazemi’s request for asylum was turned down by the United Kingdom.

After fearing for his life he fled to Netherlands and sought asylum there. The Dutch authorities returned him to the UK.

He was finally granted asylum but there are other gay people facing deportation back to Iran.

Since Iran’s Islamic revolution in 1979, human rights groups claim that between 3,000 and 4,000 people have been executed under Sharia law for the crime of homosexuality.