Pakistani man 'facing death at home for being gay' wins first step of fight to stay in NI
A Pakistani man allegedly warned that he would be lynched for being gay if he returned home has won the initial step in a High Court battle to remain in Northern Ireland.
The 35-year-old, referred to only as 'JK', was granted leave to seek a judicial review amid claims a fatwa issued by his village mosque promised "a comfortable place in Paradise" to anyone who killed him.
The man is challenging a Home Office decision to order his removal from the UK.
A judge ruled that potentially reliable new documents setting out the likely extent of his persecution on his return to Pakistan could result in him succeeding at a fresh immigration tribunal.
JK arrived in Belfast in 2013, seeking asylum on the basis of his sexuality. His claim was turned down a year later, and last year the Home Office rejected further submissions sent on his behalf.
The court heard he came from a village 200km from the city of Rawalpindi. Despite being married and having a son, he was said to have secretly pursued a homosexual lifestyle while working in Rawalpindi.
In 2000 his father allegedly beat him a rod, fracturing his leg, after suspecting he was gay. Leaving his wife and child behind in Pakistan, JK formed a partnership with a Moroccan man in Belfast. He was homeless when that relationship ended, but was taken in by a Pakistani woman living in Bangor.
Denying his asylum claim in 2014, an immigration judge rejected the account of his background and found he was not gay. However, further unverified documents were later provided by JK's solicitor, including one written in Urdu and allegedly from an uncle, advising that any return to his native country would be "a recipe for death".
The document said: "Fatwa was issued by the Mosque of village Iman... declared that anyone who will kill you the moment you enter Pakistan would be awarded a comfortable place in Paradise."
In other sections it claimed JK's father was openly insulted because of his son's sexuality.
Other messages, said to be from JK's father and brother, stated that all family ties had been cut and again threatened him with death if he attempted to return home.
The Home Office upheld the original decision against JK after concluding the documents were self-serving and failed to show a well-founded fear of persecution.
But in a newly published ruling on the man's judicial review challenge, Mr Justice Maguire noted that homosexual activity in Pakistan remained illegal.
Despite acknowledging "infirmities" in the newly submitted documents, the judge held that, if true, they showed JK was gay and could be at risk is he returned home. Mr Justice Maguire held that it would be too sweeping to completely dismiss the documents' reliability.
Granting leave for a full hearing, the judge said: "This, of course, is not to say that it is the court's view that the applicant would succeed at a further tribunal hearing, but it is to say that the court, applying anxious scrutiny, could not rule out such an outcome."