A gay Saudi diplomat has applied for asylum in the United States because he says he will be killed for his sexual orientation if he returns home.
Ali Ahmad Asseri, an officer at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Los Angeles, made his case public in recent days, going against the advice of his lawyer. Asseri claimed in a letter sent to various news outlets that he was also at risk for a close friendship with a Jewish woman from Israel.
My life is in a great danger here," Asseri reportedly wrote in the letter, "and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight. I want my voice to be heard, and I want them to know that I am not alone."
The lawyer, Ally Balour, told ABC News that his client applied for asylum in late August and was interviewed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security about two weeks ago, but declined to provide more details for fear of jeopardizing the application. Balour said he expected a decision from the government soon and that he was confident asylum would be granted.
Homosexuality is a punishable offense in many Muslim countries, including Saudi Arabia. Asseri has reportedly said he has received threats since he made his case public over the weekend. In his letter to other news outlets Asseri says his diplomatic passport was not renewed and his position at the consulate had been terminated.
Balour, the lawyer, says Asseri is still in the Los Angeles area, but declined to make him available for an interview.
Asked if he feared Asseri's case could become complicated by the tight political ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, Balour said "That's why I didn't want this to go public, but this is not a political asylum case so to speak. This is an asylum case yes but is based on his sexual orientation and has nothing to do with the politics of the day."
"Right now he's in a very difficult situation, his life has been turned upside down," Balour said, adding that his client was "very vulnerable."