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ANS – An asylum seeker who converted to Christianity and feared death if he returned to his Muslim homeland recently won a temporary reprieve from deportation in London ‘s High Court. According to newspaper reports, Ali Avishli, 37, who fled Iran in June 2002 following persecution, converted to Christianity after regularly attending Doncaster Baptist Church and was baptized two years go.

Avishli’s case was exclusively reported by the Doncaster Free Press last November when he stitched his lips together and went for 17 days without food and water after apparently losing hope over his bid to stay in the UK . The newspaper reported the divorced father-of-five was later told the Home Secretary had refused to hear his asylum application as a fresh claim, ruling that he should have mentioned his burgeoning interest in Christianity during consideration of his original bid.

But lawyers for Avishli asked Mr Justice Collins, sitting at London ‘s High Court, to grant permission to seek judicial review of the Home Secretary’s decision.

Speaking for Avishli, Martin Wynne-Jones argued that his client could not prove that he was a committed Christian at the earlier hearing as he was not baptized until months after the proceedings had concluded.

He added that Avishli had a genuine “fear of persecution, harassment and real risk of harm due to his religious beliefs” and that Iranian authorities would be aware of his conversion because of publicity of his case.

The judge adjourned the case for the Secretary of State to reconsider his response to new evidence put before the court.

Avishli has had his benefits and housing withdrawn and was sleeping rough in a park when fellow church member Tracy Swift, 48, took him in to her Copley Road flat last November.

The friends have been living on Ms Swift’s £55-a-week ($97 USD) benefits while lawyers have pursued Avishli’s case.

Swift said: “It’s been a long, frustrating process but it’s great to have some hope that Ali will be allowed to stay in the UK . His brother has been killed by the authorities in Iran and there is no doubt that they will kill him if he goes back.”

She commented that Avishli, who has dedicated most of his time to the church, planned to find work as a welder if his bid to remain in Doncaster was successful.

“Ali is not here for benefits. He wants to be able to work and contribute and, basically, just get on with his life. His dream is for his children to be able to visit him here,” she added.