Hueston Hennigan obtained asylum for a pro bono client, a gay man from Russia who feared returning to the country where he had been subject to repeated abuses because of his sexual orientation.
Since 2013, Russia has banned the distribution of “gay propaganda” to minors, a law that has been interpreted widely to allow the police to arrest people for behavior that amounts to simply being openly gay or supportive of LGBT rights. In 2016, he volunteered to distribute pamphlets about preventing HIV, where he had a verbal and physical altercation with two police officers who accused him of distributing gay propaganda. They eventually tossed him on the side of the road, warning him that if he ever spoke of what had happened, they would kill him. A year later, he had another altercation outside a club, where a group of three men began shouting slurs at him. They knocked him to the ground and kicked him in the stomach so hard that an ambulance had to be called. He was interviewed by the police, but did not report the crime, in light of his earlier experience. The next day, two men appeared at his apartment and began shouting gay slurs at him and taunting him to come out. Afraid for his life, he fled to the United States two weeks after his final attack to seek asylum.
Associate Lana Birbrair submitted a thorough asylum application detailing his repeated abuses, as well as his reasonable and well-founded fear that if he returned to Russia, the government would continue to persecute him. Ms. Birbrair recently presented his testimony at an asylum hearing, which, together with her strong advocacy, convinced the asylum officer to grant asylum.