BERLIN – The United States government denied political asylum to Ali Ahmad
Asseri, the former first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, last
week to avoid disrupting US-Saudi relations, according to a Saudi-American
blogger and journalist based in Brazil.
Asseri argued that if he
returned to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia he would face execution because the
country’s radically fundamental form of Islam mandates the death penalty for
The Saudi-American journalist and blogger, Rasheed
Abou-Alsamh, appears to have been the first writer to report on the asylum
rejection. The possible deportation of Asseri to Saudi Arabia has
electrified blog observers of the case over the last few days.
Jerusalem Post’s e-mail and telephone attempts to secure on Saturday a
confirmation and comment from the US State Department’s Middle East press
section were not immediately returned.
In an e-mail response to the Post on Saturday, Abou-Alsamh, the Saudi-American
blogger whose personal website "Rasheed's World" first broke the story about the
denial of the asylum application, wrote, "As far as I know the US government has
not yet officially commented on Asseri's denial of asylum, but from comments
that I have read after I wrote my post, it seems that political asylum cases are
often denied in first instance and then approved later when the applicant
He added: "I do think the US government is afraid of
unnecessarily annoying the Saudis, especially now with all of the turmoil that
the Arab world is going through because of the Arab Spring revolts."
Abou-Alsamh, who has written for The Washington Times
US-based publications, reported on his website that Ali al-Ahmed, a Saudi
dissident in Washington, said in a phone interview that “This was a political
decision by the Obama administration, who are afraid of upsetting the
“His initial interview with Homeland Security was very positive,
but then they came back and grilled him for two days after they found out that
he had worked in the public prosecutor’s office in Saudi Arabia,” Alsamh
“He had been an inspector to make sure that judicial
punishments, such as lashings, were carried out within the law – not more, not
less. They then accused him of participating in a form of torture,” Ahmed
said on Abou- Alamh’s website.
Ahmed said that Asseri intends to appeal
the denial of his application and the process could meander its way through the
judicial process over the next few years.
Last year, the US news
organization MSNBC first reported on Asseri’s decision to remain in the United
States. According to an article from the MSNBC national investigative
correspondent Michael Isikoff: “Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the
Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has informed US Department of Homeland Security
officials that Saudi officials have refused to renew his diplomatic passport and
effectively terminated his job after discovering he was gay and was close
friends with a Jewish woman.”
In addition to his sexual orientation,
Asseri’s friendship with a female Jewish Israeli appears to be a factor for
concern if he returns to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh does not recognize Israel’s
existence and there are no diplomatic relations between the two
countries. The Saudi Kingdom’s media and educational books are steeped in
hatred of Israel.
Stuart Appelbaum, a prominent gay rights activist in
New York and head of the international trade union Retail, Wholesale and
Department Store Union, wrote the Post
by e-mail on Friday. “If the United
States government refuses to grant asylum to a gay diplomat because it is afraid
of the Saudi reaction, then the US will become complicit in his fate. It is
exactly because of how Ahmad might be treated on his return to his homophobic
and brutal land that the United States should grant him
Appelbaum played a key role in the New York State legislative
decision to pass a marriage law for same-sex couples this year.
Phyllis Chesler, a New York-based expert on gender relations, wrote the Post
Friday, “This is further proof that the Obama administration’s foreign policy is
one of self-destructive appeasement and that despite its presumed commitment to
civil rights and human rights, that commitment does not extend to Muslim women,
Muslim dissidents, or Muslim gays – nor does it extend to the right-of-survival
of religious minorities (Christian, Jewish, Bahai, Zoroastrian) or to
“This decision refuses to countenance the reality of Islamic
gender and religious apartheid and has chosen a ‘hands off’ policy vis-a-vis
Saudi Arabia’s persecution of ‘out’ gay men,” Chesler wrote.
Arabia’s government policy of lethal homophobia has sparked outrage over the
years from some human rights activists.
The subject of state-sponsored
murder of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities across the Muslim
world has been a long neglected human-rights issue, according to NGO Monitor,
the Jerusalem-based watchdog organization, which monitors the role of NGOs in
the region, including Israel.