Gay Iranian: Lib Dem Simon Hughes ‘saved my life’ and helped me escape the death penalty
A gay Iranian man has credited Liberal Democrat Minister Simon Hughes with “saving his life” – by helping him to escape the death penalty.
Mr Hughes – who is currently Minister of State for Justice and Civil Liberties and the UK’s most senior openly bisexual politician – is fighting a battle to hold his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat next month.
However, his campaign has unveiled a surprising endorsement – from Iranian asylum seeker Medhi Kazemi, who credits the politician with saving his life.
Mr Kazemi had arrived in the UK on a student visa, and in 2008 was granted asylum amid controversy surrounding his case, when Mr Hughes was an MP and President of the Liberal Democrats.
In a leaflet delivered by Mr Hughes’ campaign team around his constituency this week, Mr Kazemi writes: “I was very nearly executed by the Iranian government. They killed my boyfriend and would have killed me. Being gay is a death sentence in Iran.
“Fortunately my uncle, who lived in Southwark, knew that Simon Hughes was no ordinary MP. He contacted Simon for help when I was being sent back to Iran.
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“It was Christmas and the Home Office was putting me on a plane on Boxing Day.
“Simon Hughes saved my life.
“He spent hours going through the details of my case, helping me to take my fight all the way to the Home Secretary.
“I know that there are lots of political battles about immigration, but when you know somebody will lose their life, that is when you have to fight for them and Simon did.
“I am now finishing my studies as a pharmacist and am due to start working for the NHS this summer. I want to use my life to help others.
“I will never be able to thank Simon enough for fighting for me and the way he fights for everyone when they most need it.”
Mr Hughes has a patchy record on gay rights – notoriously running against campaigner Peter Tatchell in 1983 in an election famed for homophobic smears – before later publicly apologising and coming out as bisexual himself.