The Saudi diplomat who began seeking asylum in the United States because he is gay is now receiving death threats, his lawyer told TPMMuckraker Tuesday.
Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, spoke with NBC News’ Michael Isikoff last weekend about his request for asylum in the U.S. after Saudi officials refused to renew his diplomatic passport after they discovered he was gay and was close friends with a Jewish woman from Israel.
His lawyer Ally Bolour expects to hear on Tuesday from the Department of Homeland Security about his client’s request, but said his client never should have gone to the media in the first place.
“The case should not have gone public, my client went public without my permission, and at this point we’re awaiting a decision from Homeland Security,” Ally Bolour told TPMMuckraker in a phone interview Tuesday.
“He deserves asylum because gay people pretty much get their heads chopped off in Saudi Arabia, that’s not me saying that, it’s documented all over the place,” Bolour said.
Asseri first approached Bolour a few months ago, his lawyer said. Asseri, said Bolour, is making a very courageous decision to come out and is putting his life on the line.
“It’s a very difficult decision for any gay person to come out especially in this case in such a public way,” Bolour said. “It’s a decision he was dealing with on a personal level for many many years.”
“We’re getting death threats from various groups all over the world,” Bolour said, adding that he spoke with Asseri last night and believed he was safe but was very worried.
According to Bolour, Asseri grew up in Saudi Arabia and has spent most of his career as a diplomat in various parts of the world.
Bolour, who specializes in asylum cases for gays and lesbians, said he couldn’t provides some of the details of the events in recent months because he didn’t want to jeopardize the case. But Asseri told NBC that he had been assigned to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles for the past five years. Several months ago, Saudi consulate employees who suspected he was gay began following him to gay bars. Since then they have also continued to monitor his private life and have demanded that he return to Saudi Arabia, reported NBC.
Asseri has also been critical of the Saudi Arabian government, according to NBC:
In a recent letter that he posted on a Saudi website, Asseri angrily criticized his country’s “backwardness” as well as the role of “militant imams” in Saudi society who have “defaced the tolerance of Islam.” Perhaps most provocatively of all, he has threatened to expose what he describes as politically embarrassing information about members of the Saudi royal family living in luxury in the U.S.
Bolour told TPM that he didn’t think that there would be a difference in the outcome because of which party was in office.
“The law is clear, whether we have a Democrat in the office or a Republican in the office, the law is clear — if there’s a clear pattern of persecution than if we can prove the case, we get asylum,” Bolour. “This goes all the way back to when Janet Reno set the precedent for gay and lesbian people, who are members of a particular social group to be recognized.”
Sources told NBC that Asseri’s case could nonetheless be complicated by his diplomatic status. No Saudi diplomat has apparently applied for asylum since 1994.