LATEST: Women’s rights activist from Sheffield fighting deportation gets last-minute reprieve

Raja Bachir Khouja and her husband Mahmoud Mohammed Al Hassan, from Grimesthorpe, Sheffield, face deportation
Raja Bachir Khouja and her husband Mahmoud Mohammed Al Hassan, from Grimesthorpe, Sheffield, face deportation

A women’s rights activist who faced deportation to a country which has threatened her with execution has had a reprieve at the 11th hour.

Raja Bachir Khouja was due to be deported to Saudi Arabia – despite never setting foot in the country and receiving a string of threats from its government.

The 56-year-old, of Grimesthorpe, is an underground women’s rights campaigner and has criticised the Saudi government and the country’s regime and treatment of women.

She was set to be deported tomorrow, along with husband Mahmoud Mohammed Al Hassan, a Saudi national, on the grounds they would be safe in his home country.

Through her husband, Raja has dual nationality and a Saudi passport.

But at a last-minute hearing in London, a Judge ordered a stay on the couple’s removal until consideration of an application for ‘permission to proceed’ has taken place. It is likely to be in the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, Qatar Airways, which had been due to fly Raja to Saudi, announced it would not accept the couple ‘on medical grounds’.

Specialist immigration solicitor Emma Brooksbank said: “We are not at the finish line yet, but this is very good news. Raja is in particular danger from the authorities in Saudi Arabia where religious police have made repeated death threats against her.”

Raja, who left Syria in 2010 and settled in Sheffield, said: “This was a very scary situation to be in.

“I have received threatening emails that state quite clearly they want to crucify, kill or maim me by taking off some limbs and they have issued an arrest warrant due to my postings.

“I fear they can just make me disappear and either kill me or at best put me in a jail cell for the rest of my life.

“All I have done is campaigned to help women and I never thought I would ever set foot in the country.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “The United Kingdom has a long and proud history of offering sanctuary to those who genuinely need it and each claim is carefully considered on its individual merits. But when someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.

“We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”