Current Affairs

Euro-Parliament takes up the case of Iranian lesbian facing deportation

Gemma Pritchard August 29, 2007
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European Parliament President Hans Gert Pöettering has said he will write a letter to Prime Minister Gordon Brown regarding the fate of Pegah Emambakhsh, the Iranian lesbian woman who risks expulsion from Great Britain to Iran.

His actions follow proposals by Italian MEP Giusto Catania (PRC), representing the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) Group in the European Parliament during today’s Conference of Presidents, and Graham Watson, President of the Parliament’s Liberal Group.

Pegah Emambakhsh, 40, who fled to Britain from Iran in 2005 after her partner was arrested and tortured, is due to be expelled this week after her bid for residency was rejected, according to a British advocacy group.

If deported, Ms Emambakhsh risks physical violence and torture and a possible death sentence.

MEP Giusto Catania said in a statement:

“Pöettering has the task of explaining to Gordon Brown that Pegah’s expulsion to Iran would constitute a serious violation of human rights and international conventions and bring shame not only on a country like Great Britain but also on the European Union as a whole.

“I suggested to the President that he indicate Italy’s willingness to welcome Pegah, who is not guilty of any crime.

“We strongly support Pegah and I am sure that all European parliamentarians will continue to follow her case very closely.”

The European Parliament Presidency has committed to sending the letter without delay.

Meanwhile, gay rights proponents and left-wing politicians rallied for her cause in a protest on Monday outside the British embassy in Italy.

The main Italian gay rights group, Arcigay, led about 100 people in a protest Monday evening outside the British embassy.

Some left-wing politicians from parties in Premier Romano Prodi’s centre-left coalition joined the demonstration.

According to the Associated Press, Arcigay has called on Prodi’s government to offer Emambakhsh asylum.

Government officials, including Justice Minister Clemente Mastella, have told reporters that Italy is ready to welcome the woman.

Italy, like other EU countries, does not have the death penalty, and began a push at the United Nations earlier this year for a worldwide moratorium on capital punishment.

Homosexuality is considered a crime in Iran and can carry the death penalty

In 2005, the Islamic regime hanged two teenagers on charges of involvement in homosexual acts.

Britain’s Home Office declined to comment on Emambakhsh’s case, saying it cannot discuss individual asylum cases.

Richard Caborn, a former British sports minister and a lawmaker for the northern English city of Sheffield, where Emambakhsh has lived since 2005, said he had won a temporary delay of her deportation and was planning to press British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith over the case.

“Maybe they wanted proof, but I don’t know what proof I could have offered,” Italian daily La Repubblica quoted Emambakhsh as saying in an interview published on Sunday.

“I’d rather die than go back to Iran, where something more terrible and painful than death awaits me.”

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