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7/9/07 BERLIN, Germany (BosNewsLife)– In a landmark case that could impact decisions in other European Union states, A German court said Monday, July 9, that asylum-seekers from Iran who have converted to Christianity may not be deported.


In Monday’s published ruling the administrative court in the southern city of Stuttgart upheld the complaint of an Iranian Christian woman whose asylum application and subsequent appeals had been rejected in Germany.

The plaintiff, who was not named apparently for security reasons, traveled to Germany in 2000 with her two sons and based her asylum application on the fact that she had converted to Christianity from Islam 19 years earlier. Rights groups have said that converts can face execution in Iran.

The Associated Press news agency quoted the woman as saying that since she had married a Muslim she had been forced to hide her religion from her family. The woman said that she reached a point at which she could no longer live in Iran because she needed to speak openly about her faith and attend Christian worship services.

GERMANY DENIED REQUEST

Germany had denied her request on the grounds that she could practice her religion in private in Iran, if not in public, without fearing reprisals.

A similar argument has been used in the Netherlands where last year then Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk caused outrage by threatening to expel Iranian Christians who converted from Islam saying if they “don’t express their new faith openly, they do not have to fear danger.”

However judges in Stuttgart said they accepted the Iranian woman’s argument that a 2004 European Union directive grants asylum within the bloc to those who face discrimination or threats to their well-being for practicing their religion in public.

NEW DIRECTIVE IMPLEMENTED?

Member states had reportedly until October 2006 to implement the directive.

“The plaintiff may no longer be forced to only practice her religion in secret once she returns to Iran … particularly after years of openly and intensively practicing her religion in Germany,” the ruling said as quoted by AP.

“In Iran, converted Christians are threatened with general repression because they have changed their religion, particularly when the new religious conviction is openly represented, for example by violating the ban on proselytizing,” it added.

Under Islamic law, punishment for apostasy is death. Human rights groups and local Christian
leaders have said that converts to Christianity are often subject to oppression and punishment for “insulting Islam.”