(CN) – The 9th Circuit revived the asylum case of an Iranian woman who converted from Islam to Christianity, saying she had the right to let her newfound faith develop before seeking protection in the United States.
After Azra Taslimi converted to Christianity in 2002, she discussed legalizing her legal status with her pastor. She had been living in the United States since 1992.
Taslimi said she was previously unaware that her religious conversion made her eligible for U.S. asylum.
She applied in March 2003, seven months after her conversion ceremony.
During her asylum hearing, Taslimi said her life would be in great danger if she returned to Iran, adding that “more likely than not” she would be tortured.
She testified that she was fully committed to Christianity, even if deported.
The immigration judge ruled that although her religious conversion constituted a “change in circumstances,” she was ineligible for asylum because she failed to apply within a reasonable period after her conversion.
The Board of Immigration Appeals affirmed the ruling, but the 9th Circuit reversed.
“[W]e conclude that Taslimi offered substantial credible evidence establishing that her subjective religious conversion was a process that began on the date of her conversion ceremony, but took some time … for her to incorporate into her life,” the Pasadena-based appellate panel ruled.
“[F]iling for asylum immediately after her conversion to ensure timeliness of her application might have cast doubt upon the sincerity of her faith,” Judge Harry Pregerson noted.
The panel remanded her asylum case to the Board of Immigration Appeals.