AN IRANIAN claims to have begun a sixth day of hunger strike today after being told by authorities that his case for asylum has been rejected.

Mohammed Reza Solymanyzadeh says he will face death by stoning if he returns to Iran and says he has therefore no reason to live.

Today, refugee support workers said his case exposed the 'desperate' situation being created by the fundamentalist government in Iran.

The 21-year-old claims to have refused food and water since last Thursday. He was visited by paramedics and two doctors yesterday.

He arrived in Britain on February 26 last year and claimed asylum two days later. He has been living in Shear Brow, Blackburn, but was told in March that several appeals to the authorities had failed.

An appeal in Manchester in January found that it was unlikely he would face persecution or serious problems on his return.

Acting for Mohammed, the immigration advisory service told the appeal that he was "an accused on the run" and his punishment would be stoning.

But the case adjudicator found that his account of what had happened was 'not credible.' It concluded that he was not an escaped convicted adulterer facing death by stoning and was therefore "no interest to the authorities."

His weekly allowance of £38 was stopped and he was told to return to Iran.

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But Mohammed, who has two sisters in Iran, said he believes he will face torture and death if he returns. Speaking through a translator, he said: "I have been refused asylum but if I go back I am dead.

"I left Iran illegally after I escaped prison because you cannot cross the border when you are a wanted man. I will die here." For a case of asylum to be granted, Mohammed needed to show that returning to Iran would expose him to a risk of persecution on one of five grounds recognised by the 1951 Refugee Convention.

These are defined as a "well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality or membership of a particular social group or political opinion" and will result in "indefinite leave to remain."

Alternatively, permission to stay in the country could have been granted on humanitarian grounds under Article Three of the European Convention of human rights for a four year period, open to renewal.

It states that no-one should be subjected to torture.

Stephen Rylance of Manchester-based Refugee Action said: "Mohammed has clearly exhausted the legal process for his claim but it is not uncommon to end up in this situation.

"It shows the desperate situation people are finding themselves in under the Sharia law.

"People do not go to these lengths, regardless of what the Home Office have ruled, unless you believe very strongly that he faces persecution or death on return."

Rev Sally Thomas, who has worked to help asylum seekers in Burnley and Pendle through BRASS and is a United Reformed Church minister, added: "Cases cannot be generalised, but he must be genuinely terrified to go to these extremes."

East Lancashire-based religious scholar Dr Mahmood Chandia today said: "Death by stoning for both men and women exists to provide a social balance in a way that other people will see adultery as a deterrent. So while the Western observer might see it as abhorrent, it exists to preserve the family lineage.

"It is dictated by prophetic practice which is part of the Islamic religion, the Koran."

A spokesperson for the Home Office said: "Though this course of action undertaken by the individual is regrettable it will have no bearing on his case which will have been judged on the potential dangers he may face."