MUSLIM Iranians who have converted to Christianity have won a landmark fight with home secretary Priti Patel to remain in Scotland in UK test case that is understood to impact on hundreds of potential asylum seeker claims.

A stay of execution was won two years ago as three appeal judges led by Lord Glennie in the Court of Session demanded a rehearing of the case of the two Glasgow-based Iranians who said they are converted Christians who would be at risk of persecution if forced to return.

The Herald can reveal that the Home Office has now dropped the cases against the two men after Lord Glennie strongly criticised two immigration tribunals for failing to properly consider evidence from representatives of one of Scotland's largest evangelical churches over the religious conversion while rejecting their appeals to remain in Scotland.

The Herald has had sight of a string of UK cases where the case has been cited in support of asylum.

As of two years ago, the two Iranians only identified as TF and MA were members of the Tron Church in Glasgow and were under threat of being sent back to their native land.

At that point there were among 130-150 Iranians including former Muslims who were both asylum seekers and those granted asylum who were regularly attending mid-week meetings and Sunday services at the Tron.

The Herald was told that the majority were anxiously awaiting the outcome of what was becoming known as a test case.

The Herald has been told by Home Office has confirmed that the case was withdrawn and that the appeals are now quashed.

READ MORE: New questions over treatment of asylum seekers in Glasgow after Park Inn attack

A Ministry of Justice source said that it could be assumed that there was a leave to remain.

Lord Glennie in his judgment felt judges in two first tier tribunals (FTT) were predisposed to reject the men's claims of asylum having "paid little attention" to other evidence, particular witnesses from the Tron Church in Glasgow, of which the men, referred to only as TF and MA are members.

He said the Tron witnesses gave "admissible opinion evidence which is entitled to respect".

Both the first tier and upper tribunals who rejected the appeals "failed properly to take account of the independent evidence relating to the genuineness of the appellants’ conversions to Christianity. And they have failed to give adequate reasons for, in effect, disregarding such evidence."


Around 130-150 Iranians both asylum seekers and those who had already been granted asylum regularly attend mid-week meetings and Sunday services at the Tron.

An unidentified FTT judge in the case of TF had decided that he was claiming to be a Christian because it would assist him in his asylum claim in the UK.

He had identified "major inconsistencies" in his account of distribution anti-regime leaflets in Iran in 2013 before he came to the UK and rejected his claim that he had been arrested and tortured.

The judge went so far as conclude that a letter from a hospital relating to the man's treatment for physical injuries and sexual harm while in an Iranian prison were fabricated to improve his chances of asylum.

The judge found that TF, who entered the UK legally six years ago on a student visa, had been on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia in 2013 undermining his claim that Islam did not play a role in his life.

The judge said: "There have been certain areas where the appellant has failed to provide honest information in his claim for asylum and I consider it reasonable to conclude that his failure to be truthful in these matters undermines his claimed conversion to Christianity."

Three Tron representatives wrote in support of TF in 2016, including retired solicitor and missionary John Taylor.

He said: "The Tron Church... is an evangelical church, adhering to the teaching of the Bible in all areas of life and conduct relating to Christian faith, Christian growth and evangelism.

"Whereas it is not possible to look into a person’s heart to ascertain whether or not a conversion to Christianity is more than just words, the church leaders look for a confirming work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s conduct."


He later added: “As a person from a Moslem background, [TF’s] attending church meetings openly and regularly indicates a commitment to learn about the Christian faith. He is clear about his own personal faith in Jesus and growing in his understanding of what that faith means in his daily life. He also helps where he can in interpreting in the small bible study groups so that fellow Iranians with limited English can understand more about the Christian faith.

"I am convinced that this active faith in the Lord Jesus Christ would place him in danger if he were to be returned to Iran, where the authorities view conversion to Christianity as blasphemy. I would therefore request that this application for permission to remain in the UK be granted so that he may continue to live a useful life in UK society.”

In his letter, Mr Taylor said he had been helping with the international ministry of the Church and had since 2010 been involved with many Muslim asylum seekers from Iran and other parts of the Middle East.

In the course of that involvement he said he had seen many people express an interest in Christianity at first, only to drift away later.

The other asylum seeker MA entered the UK illegally in October, 2015 and initially claimed asylum because he was perceived to be a homosexual and at risk if returned, the Court of Session heard.

When the matter came to the FTT the claim was made on the basis of a conversion to Christianity which was not raised before Theresa May, then Home Secretary.

The FTT judge took the view that the claim of conversion to Christianity was being kept “in reserve” as a “Plan B”, to be deployed if the initial claim based on perceived homosexual orientation should fail.

The FTT judge called his claim a "multi-layered contrivance" adding: "He is not a genuine asylum seeker and should be removed from the UK on that basis."

The judge felt that a fabrication of a story about an alleged homosexual encounter appeared to indicate that the appellant is "someone who is prepared to contrive an account to suit his purposes".

Four representatives from the Tron backed MA's asylum bid including Mr Taylor who again warned of persecution if returned to Iran.

Mr Taylor who also supported MA said he had come to the church not looking to change his religion but to find Iranian friends. He was converted and asked for baptism on confession of his faith.

"When [MA] first came to church, a Christianity Explored course was in progress. He attended a couple of the sessions, but then enrolled for the full course in March – April 2016.

"This course was also translated into Farsi. Christianity Explored introduces the basics of the Christian faith, and we advise all who have an interest in learning more about Christianity to attend this course.

"[MA] seems to understand all that he learns in the various Bible studies and has an appetite for more. He asked for baptism on confession of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ in September 2016. He was interviewed by leaders of the church and the Iranian ministry and was baptised and admitted to membership of The Tron Church on October 23 at the Sunday evening service in our Kelvingrove building.

“[MA’s] Christian baptism and regular attendance at meetings in the church presents him with a problem," added Mr Taylor. "For someone who was born into a Muslim family, conversion to Christianity is regarded as apostasy and his behaviour, including his willingness to talk to others of his faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is regarded as blasphemy by the Muslim majority and raises the very real probability of him being persecuted if he were to be sent back to Iran.”


But Lord Glennie said that in each case, the FTT, having formed a view on credibility adverse to the men "appears to have paid little attention to the other evidence available to it, particularly the evidence from the witnesses from the Tron Church, accepting its honesty but giving it little or no weight.

"It is wrong in principle to form a concluded view of the probable veracity of particular items of evidence and then, from that fixed point, to allow that view to govern the assessment of other evidence in the case. The proper approach is to adopt what is sometimes called an 'holistic' approach, considering all the evidence 'in the round' before arriving at any concluded view on the facts.

He added: "The judge should not jump too readily to the conclusion that because the appellant has told lies about some matters then his credibility on all matters is fatally undermined.

"Juries in a criminal trial are commonly directed that the fact that an individual may have lied about one point does not necessarily mean that he is lying about other matters, and the same words of caution should be taken to heart by tribunal judges hearing evidence in immigration and asylum appeals.

"People have different reasons for not telling the truth, or the whole truth, about particular matters.

He said in the case of TF: "[The FTT judge] says that he has 'looked at all the evidence in the round and taken into account my other findings herein before reaching my conclusions in respect of the appellant’s claimed conversion to Christianity'. But when one looks at his reasons, he does no such thing.

"What he ought to have done was to look at all the evidence in the case, including the evidence from the Tron Church witnesses, on its own merits before forming a concluded view as to the veracity of the appellant.

"We cannot say what conclusion he would have reached had he done this, but it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that a consideration of the evidence from the church, carried out on its merits and without any a priori assumption about the appellant’s lack of credibility, might have led him to form a different view of the appellant."

Lord Glennie said over the MA decision that the judge expressed concern about "what appears to be a mean-spirited approach to some of the evidence".

The FTT judge had referred to the Tron Church as an example of organisations which “on the face of it at least are bona fide religious institutions or organisations”.

Lord Glennie said: "The use of the expression “on the face of it at least” appears to imply some doubt as to whether or not it is a bona fide religious organisation. If that is what he is saying he should say so clearly and give his reasons. If he has no good reason to doubt its bona fides then he should refrain from this insinuating reference."

The judgment said the men's appeals were heard together because they appeared to raise similar questions relating to the appropriate treatment of certain types of evidence in cases where the genuineness of conversion is challenged.

Lord Glennie said they also raised questions as to the status of evidence from church leaders or others holding positions of responsibility about the conduct of a person who has begun the process of admission into the church and as to the sincerity of his conversion to Christianity.

A Home Office source said: "Both of these cases have been reconsidered and decisions made. The appeals have been withdrawn. We would not give out any further information about individual asylum claims."

A Ministry of Justice source said that the case was listed for hearing with the FTT but then closed after agreement after the Home Office decided to withdraw.

"It basically means there was no decision for the appellant(s) to appeal against," he said.