Welsh AM joins protest against deportation of gay asylum seeker

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

A member of the Welsh Assembly has given her support to Azerbaijani artist and gay asylum seeker Babi Badalov.

It emerged today that he will be deported on Saturday evening on Azerbaijan Airlines flight J20008 from Heathrow.

He was detained on Tuesday at his weekly sign-in at the UK Border Agency Offices in Cardiff.

Supporters picketed the office yesterday, and were joined by Leanne Wood AM.

“We must support asylum seekers such as Babi, and there is an obligation on the Westminster government to defend those people who face persecution in their respective countries,” said Ms Wood, the Plaid Cymru AM for South Wales Central since 2003.

“Wales has welcomed Babi with open arms, and it is deeply frustrating that the National Assembly for Wales does not have the powers to overturn decisions to deport asylum seekers who are clearly in danger.”

Supporters are seeking to delay any deportation while new evidence is presented concerning Mr Badalov’s psychological wellbeing and the threats that have been made to him.

He is currently being held in a police station.

Today campaigners for his release called on people to contact Azerbaijan Airlines and “register your disapproval at their willingness to deport Babi. Point out how it will harm their business to do so.”

Babakhan Badalov (Babi) arrived in the UK in 2006 claiming he was repressed and persecuted in his home country.

His appeal against the refusal of asylum was rejected at the end of July and has been in the process of filing a fresh claim with new evidence of the danger he would face back in Azerbaijan.

“Alarming new witness statements detailing Babi’s history of violent persecution have also recently came to light, which would allow him to make a very strong fresh claim for asylum,” said the campaign group No Borders Wales.

Azerbaijan legalised homosexuality in 2000.

However, the Muslim country is still a very conservative society and homosexuality remains an extremely taboo subject.

The 49 year-old internationally-renowned poet and artist said his work got him into trouble with the law.

He was often critical of the government and members of the regime.

He claims his sexual orientation also caused him both physical and mental grief and he endured years of bullying.

Mr Badalov’s family’s denial of his sexual orientation even led to one of his brothers threatening to kill him as he had shamed the family.

After fleeing to the UK, he was detained in four different detention centres for thirty-two days before being moved to Cardiff.

Omar Kuddus, a gay asylum activist, has asked Home Secretary Jacqui Smith to intervene in his case.

“If Babi was from a religious minority and being persecuted he would give asylum straight away,” he said.

“Please Ms Smith, you have proved before that you are capable of compassion and that the world has shown its disgust and made its feelings clear when you tried to deport Mehdi Kazemi back to Iran.

“Do the right thing again, and put the Great back into Britain, before the world shows its condemnation and protest at your actions.”

Click here for up to date information on Mr Badalov’s case.