Lawyers claim breakthrough in perceptions of atheism
Picture: AP/BBC News
An Afghan citizen has been granted asylum in the UK for religious reasons - because he is an atheist.
The man fled to the UK from a conflict involving his family in Afghanistan in 2007, aged 16, and was allowed to stay in the UK until 2013.
He was brought up a Muslim, but during his time in the UK became an atheist, his legal team said.
They said he would face persecution and possibly a death sentence if he was returned to Afghanistan.
The team was from the University of Kent's Law School which offers legal services through its Kent Law Clinic.
They believe it is the first time a person has been granted asylum in the UK on the basis of their atheism.
They said the man's return to Afghanistan could result in a death sentence under Sharia law as an apostate - someone who has abandoned their religious faith - unless he remained discreet about his atheist beliefs.
But because every aspect of daily life and culture in Afghanistan is permeated by Islam living discreetly would be virtually impossible, they said.
The case was prepared by second-year law student Claire Splawn under the supervision of clinic solicitor Sheona York.
Ms Splawn said: "We argued that an atheist should be entitled to protection from persecution on the grounds of their belief in the same way as a religious person is protected."
Ms York added: "The decision represents an important recognition that a lack of religious belief is in itself a thoughtful and seriously-held philosophical position."
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