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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Gay Saudi Diplomat Fears Return to His Country

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Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has applied for political asylum in the United States, claiming that Saudi officials have terminated his job after discovering that he was gay and was close friends with an Israeli Jewish woman.  MSNBC reports that on a Saudi website, Mr. Asseri recently criticized his country's "backwardness" and the role of "militant imams" in Saudi society.  He also threatened to expose what he describes as politically embarrassing information about members of the Saudi royal family living in luxury in the U.S.  Mr. Asseri states that he could face persecution or death in his home country.

I suppose this represents some sort of progress.

According to MSNBC, the last time a Saudi diplomat applied for asylum in the U.S. was in 1994 when the first secretary for the Saudi mission to the United Nations was granted asylum after publicly criticizing his country's human rights record and alleged support for terrorism.

If Mr. Asseri can demonstrate he is gay, he should have a good chance to win his asylum case: homosexuals have been defined as a particular social group and country conditions in Saudi Arabia are dangerous for gays and lesbians-according to the State Department report on Saudi Arabia, sexual activity between two persons of the same gender is punishable by death or flogging.

According to MSNBC, Mr. Asseri was interview by DHS on August 30, 2010.  He should expect a decision in the near future. 

What is curious to me about the case is why Mr. Asseri felt the need to publicize his criticisms of Saudi Arabia on the internet.  His complaint about "militant imams" might be understandable given his circumstances, but it certainly would not improve his situation were he to return home.  I know nothing about Mr. Asseri, but I've seen other aliens engage in activities in the U.S. that are possibly designed to bolster their asylum claims-for example, attending political rallies against their government or posting anti-government messages on the internet. 

Such activities present a challenge for the decision maker.  On the one hand, the activities may be legitimate political activities.  On the other hand, they could be designed merely to engineer a stronger case.  Either way, the activities make it more dangerous for the alien to return home.  In Mr. Asseri's case, his internet postings do not seem to be the primary basis for his asylum claim and may simply be a manifestation of his anger over his treatment.  In any case, if he can demonstrate his sexual orientation and that he was fired from the Saudi embassy, that would likely be enough for a grant of asylum.

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