Lynn v. Sekulow

Barry, your discussion of the United States’ record in religious asylum cases brought to mind another case we have worked on. We filed an amici curiae brief with a U.S. district court in Pennsylvania along with our international affiliate in support of Sameh Sami S. Khouzam, a Coptic Christian from Egypt who would likely face torture and possible death if returned to his native country. It is well known that Coptic Christians face terrible persecution in Egypt, including kidnappings, forced conversions, torture, and death.


An immigration judge had concluded that “the evidence is overwhelming that [Khouzam] will more likely than not be subjected to torture by a responsible Egyptian government official,” and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that Khouzam could not be deported under the Convention Against Torture (CAT). In 2007, however, he was taken into custody to be sent back to Egypt after the United States received “diplomatic assurances” from the Government of Egypt that he would not be tortured. Fortunately, the district court judge agreed with our arguments and allowed Khouzam to remain in the United States due to the clear risk that he would be tortured despite Egypt’s assurances to the contrary.


Barry, I think we would agree that the best way to help people like Khouzam and others who face severe religious persecution is for the global community to use its influence to pressure nations like Iran and Egypt to respect basic human rights. In this vein, the Presidency of the European Union issued a declaration last week stating the EU’s concern over “the deterioration in the exercise of freedom of religion or belief, and especially the freedom of worship, in Iran, where the pressure on people belonging to religious minorities has worsened in recent months.”


In addition, the declaration stated, “[t]he European Union is deeply disturbed by the arrests since April of Iranian converts to Christianity and members of the Baha’i community. It calls for their immediate and unconditional release and the cessation of all forms of violence and discrimination against them.” The declaration also expressed concern “at the Iranian parliament’s decision to consider a draft law making apostasy one of the crimes punishable by death” and stated: “The European Union urges the Islamic Republic of Iran to reconsider its decision to examine the law in question, release all those who have been imprisoned because of their religious affiliation and allow its citizens to exercise their freedom of religion or belief in full.”


It is encouraging to see the European Union taking a stand for human rights and religious freedom.


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