Appeals Court Rules Anti-Gay Attack Valid Cause for Asylum Claim Over DOJ Objections

The petitioner's father and neighbors beat him, doused him in fuel, and threatened to cut his head off or burn him alive.

Above: A man bikes through the streets of Accra, the capital of Ghana.

A U.S. appeals court has ruled a vicious anti-gay attack against a man who fled from Ghana was sufficient cause for an asylum claim, over the U.S. Justice Department’s objection.

Judge L. Felipe Restrepo, for the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in favor of the Ghanaian man, described by the AP as “in his late 20s from Accra;” his name withheld over concerns for his safety. Immigration courts had determined he could safely return to his home country, citing, in part, the attack having been an isolated incident.

Restrepo noted in his ruling that the victim “was threatened with death by fire or decapitation while being assaulted, doused with fuel, and exposed to a cutlass.”

The man fled, naked and bleeding from his wounds, and did not seek medical attention out of fear. According to Jurist, the court found the immigration judge mischaracterized the petitioner’s testimony as saying he did not need medical attention. The appeals court also said multiple attacks were not needed to justify cause for asylum, provided a single incident proved “egregious.”

The Justice Department also cited the one-time nature of the assault, arguing that was justification for refusing to grant him asylum.

According to the petitioner, the attack was led by his father and his neighbors, who discovered in 2016 that he was engaged in a secret relationship with another man. Same-sex sexual activity between men is illegal in the country, carrying a possible prison sentence of up to three years. This law was presented as valid cause for the victim having decided not to go to the police regarding the incident, which the U.S. government argued was also evidence against his need for asylum.

The court’s ruling vacated the Board of Immigration Appeals’ decision and remanded the case for further proceedings.

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