The Foreign Office says it has “serious concerns” over reports of an 18-year-old Iranian man being sentenced to death for homosexuality offences.
Ebrahim Hamidi is facing execution after being found guilty of sodomy, despite his accuser withdrawing the allegation and Iran’s Supreme Court ruling against the verdict and execution order.
PinkNews.co.uk understands that the Foreign Office has received a number of letters from British MPs urging action on the case, while gay Conservative MP Iain Stewart today called on the Foreign Secretary William Hague to pressure Iran into freeing Mr Hamidi.
A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: “We have seen reports of Hamidi’s sentence. We are speaking to NGOs and to contacts in Iran to establish further information about the case. If the reports are true, there appear to be serious concerns over the process followed in the case and the sentence.
“While restating our opposition to the death penalty in all cases, we call on Iran to live up to its international obligations – under the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights to which it is a party – to apply the death penalty for only the most serious of crimes.
“UK policy on promoting and protecting the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people is clear: human rights are universal and should not be determined by sexual orientation or gender identity.”
In June, the coalition government promised that Britain would use its status as a world leader for LGBT rights to lobby other countries to repeal homophobic laws.
A number of countries around the world, including Iran, criminalise homosexuality.
The judge in Mr Hamidi’s case is using a legal provision which allows for subjective judicial rulings where there is no conclusive evidence.
Mr Hamidi is understood to be heterosexual and gay rights campaigners say that this is an instance where straight people can be executed for homosexuality offences.
He was arrested with three other men in 2008, after a fight between two disputing families outside the city of Tabriz. The alleged victim initially claimed he had been sexually assaulted but later withdrew his allegation, saying his family had pressured him into making it.
The three other men were cleared of the charges. All four said they had been tortured and Mr Hamidi said he had signed a confession which was not true.
Previously, he was represented by the human rights lawyer Mohammad Mostafaei but Mr Mostafaei has gone into exile in Norway after another of his cases attracted global media attention.
The lawyer is also representing Sakineh Ashtiani, the Iranian woman who has been sentenced to death by stoning on charges of adultery.
Speaking last week, UK-based gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell said: “Ebrahim’s case shows the flaws and failings of the Iranian legal system. It is further evidence that innocent people are sentenced on false charges of homosexuality.”
“An international campaign can help stop Ebrahim’s execution, just as a similar global campaign has, so far, halted the stoning to death of Sakineh Ashtiani.”