The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit has turned down a request for asylum from a student in the Central African country of Cameroon contending he is in danger for speaking out in support of gay rights.
“This petition for review requires us to decide whether substantial evidence supports the decision of the Board of Immigration Appeals that Che Eric Sama did not suffer past persecution by the Cameroonian police and that he lacked a well-founded fear of future persecution,” Judge William Pryor wrote.
Pryor denied Sama’s petition for review. Judge Julie Carnes and Judge John Antoon II of the Middle District of Florida, sitting by designation, concurred.
Sama unsuccessfully sought help from the Immigration and Nationality Act and the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
According to Pryor’s opinion, Sama said he was targeted after posting a message in a university publication asking for equal rights and treatment of homosexuals. He said afterward, an “anti-gay group” attacked him as he was walking home from class. They knocked him to the ground, cut his neck with a knife and warned him that they would kill him next time they saw him if he did not “stop his homosexual activities.” One of the gay friends he was defending was murdered. and his partner was believed kidnapped.
Sama was arrested for speaking out to protect homosexuals, as was his mother—although she was released after two days in jail, Pryor said.
“Sama contends that the record compels findings that he suffered persecution and that he had a well-founded fear of being singled out for future persecution for associating with two gay friends and posting a message in a university publication condemning the treatment of gay individuals,” Pryor said. “But we disagree.”
Pryor ruled that the Board of Immigration Appeals “was entitled to find that any mistreatment that Sama suffered did not rise to the level of persecution, to find that the police investigated his mistreatment, and to rely on country reports published by the State Department that state that conditions in Cameroon are improving for gay individuals.”
Sama was represented by Ronald Richey of Rockville, Maryland. Richey could not be reached immediately for comment.
Lead counsel for the U.S. Attorney General was Erica Miles of the Department of Justice. Miles declined to comment.
The case is Sama v. U.S. Attorney General, No. 17-10711.