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A ranking Saudi diplomat told NBC News that he has asked for political asylum in the United States, saying he

By Michael Isikoff

fears for his life if he is forced to return to his native country.

The diplomat, Ali Ahmad Asseri, the first secretary of the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, has informed U.S. Department of Homeland Security officials that Saudi officials have refused to renew his diplomatic passport and effectively terminated his job after discovering he was gay and was close friends with a Jewish woman.

In a recent letter that he posted on a Saudi website, Asseri angrily criticized his country’s “backwardness” as well as the role of “militant imams” in Saudi society who have “defaced the tolerance of Islam.” Perhaps most provocatively of all, he has threatened to expose what he describes as politically embarrassing information about members of the Saudi royal family living in luxury in the U.S.

If he is forced to go back to Saudi Arabia — as Saudi officials are demanding — Asseri says he could face political persecution and even death.

“My life is in a great danger here and if I go back to Saudi Arabia, they will kill me openly in broad daylight,” Asseri said Saturday in an email to NBC.

In a recent interview, Asseri and his lawyer said that the Saudi diplomat was questioned by a Department of Homeland Security official in Los Angeles on Aug. 30 after formally applying for asylum on the grounds that he is a member of a “particular social group” — gays — that would subject him to persecution if he returns to his home country.

Officials at DHS in Washington as well as the Saudi Embassy in Washington and the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles did not respond to requests for comment.

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