THE nephew of a former Iranian deputy defence minister who has become a prominent and outspoken atheist in Scotland has made a desperate appeal not to be returned to his homeland, claiming his life is now at risk as he will be seen as a "traitor of Islam".

Ramin Forghani, the vice-chairman of the Scottish Secular Society which campaigns for the separation of church and state, and promotes atheism, has appealed to the Home Office to prevent his forced return to Iran after the Court of Session rejected his asylum case.

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Forghani, 25, has been in Glasgow for two years working on a masters degree in environmental engineering at the University of Strathclyde. He applied for asylum while staying on a student visa, saying he has turned his back on Islam, founded the Iranian Atheists Association and is chairman of Ex-Muslims Scotland.

He has told the Home Office his uncle was Alireza Akbari, once an adviser to Iran's National Security Council, former general with the Revolutionary Guard and a former deputy defence minister.

Forghani said he had been involved in the 2009 Iranian presidential election protests against the disputed victory of the president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and in support of opposition candidates Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi.

Mohammad Khatami, a former president of Iran who served in the post for eight years, initially stood as a candidate for the 2009 elections but withdrew from the race to back Mousavi, seen as moderate in tone.

"So far they have said no to my call for asylum," he said. "My claim is based on my fear of going back, because of my uncle's position and my relationship with him, and of course I am seen as a traitor."

He pointed to the case of Soheil Arabi, 30, who last month was sentenced to death after being found guilty of insulting the Prophet Muhammad on Facebook.

Arabi was arrested along with his wife last year by the Revolutionary Guards Corps. He is said to have written "material without thinking and in poor psychological condition".

Article 262 of the Islamic Penal Code states insulting the Prophet carries a punishment of death. However, article 264 of the Penal Code says if a suspect claims to have said the insulting words in anger, in quoting someone, or by mistake, his death sentence will be converted to 74 lashes.

Forghani, a speaker at the two-day Secular Conference in London which opens today, said he is "afraid to go home to my country of Iran".

He added: "They say I am not in any danger because of my relationship with my uncle and my activities during the protests. I have been talking about my beliefs and opposition to the system.

"The religious are drunk on success, seizing every opportunity to expand and proselytise in the face of the shrinking protections of secularism. It might start with a Trojan horse in Birmingham finding their way into a school to indoctrinate young children, but it leads to a situation like in the Islamic Republic of Iran, where streets once filled with free woman choosing religion are now filled with the bowed heads of women in compulsory hijab who are bound by it.

"I lived and grew up in the Iran ruled by an Islamic regime. After moving to Scotland to continue my education I find myself free, enjoying my life in a multicultural and tolerant society. I want to challenge Islam before it tightens its grip on the world around me and silences us all."

The Home Office was unable to comment on the case.