Gay Saudi diplomat in Los Angeles fears execution after being fired, ordered home

Man seeks asylum, goes into hiding

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — A gay Saudi diplomat seeking political asylum said his position was terminated and he was ordered to return to his home country where he fears he will be killed.

In an e-mail to news organizations, including the Los Angeles Times, Saudi consulate official Ali Ahmad Asseri said his passport wasn’t renewed and his position in the Los Angeles office was eliminated after Saudi officials learned that he is gay and he befriended a Jewish woman.

Homosexuality is illegal in Saudi Arabia.

“My life is in a great danger here, and if I go back to Saudi Arabia they will kill me openly in broad daylight,” Asseri wrote in the message.

Asseri, who has been in the U.S. for five years, is in hiding, according to supporters.

His lawyer, Ally Bolour, told NBC News — which first reported the story last weekend — that his client applied for asylum because he was a member of a particular social group that would subject him to persecution if he went back to Saudi Arabia.

Asseri was questioned Aug. 30 by a Department of Homeland Security official in Los Angeles, said Bolour, who declined further comment until the case has been decided.

In July, Asseri posted an appeal to King Abdullah on a popular Arabic website in which he railed against the “backwardness” of Saudi officials and “militant Imams who defaced the tolerance of Islam.”

—  John Wright

Will the real Lady Gaga please stand up?

A woman who identified herself as “Lady Starlight” snaps a photo with her cell phone aboard a flight from Edmonton to Minneapolis on Saturday. Was “Lady Starlight” really Lady Gaga?

Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell, who describes himself as a “casual Lady Gaga fan,” reports that he was vacationing in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, last week when — by sheer accident — he ended up in the same city as her Monster Ball tour. McDonnell took advantage by catching one of her two shows in Edmonton and then apparently ended up on the same flight as her to Minneapolis on Saturday. Or did he? McDonnell said he wanted to invite her to stop by the Resource Center when she visits Dallas again in March, but first he had to figure out which one she was, and that wasn’t going to be easy. Turns out Gaga likes to outsmart the paparazzi by donning a poker face while traveling. Here’s McDonnell’s report:

Saturday afternoon, I was wrapping up my Canadian vacation, preparing to head home from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, to Minneapolis and then DFW. The plane back to Minnesota was a fairly small, 90 or so seat regional jet, and for a Saturday afternoon wasn’t expected to be a crowded flight.

As I was going through the metal detector and bag check, the Canadian security official told me that they were expecting a celebrity to come through. I asked who, and she answered, “Lady Gaga.” Her concert tour had stopped in Edmonton on Thursday and Friday, and would pick up in St. Paul on Monday night.

I don’t think most of the passengers on the flight probably wouldn’t  have known who Lady Gaga is; there were a fair number of couples in their 50′s and 60s in the departure lounge. Still, the flight crew and gate personnel were excitedly talking about her being on the flight. In fact, either the pilot or copilot called somebody before takeoff to share the news. I heard a member of the cabin crew saying she was seated in row 2 (first class on the regional jet only had three rows). They also said she was already on the plane when the rest of the passengers boarded.

When I boarded the plane, I approached row 2 and there was a woman seated there wearing a red leather jacket, a multi-color blouse and dark jeans. I introduced myself, said where I worked, and thanked her for supporting the community. She smiled, and said thanks. Then, she said, “But, I’m Lady Starlight.” I responded, “Well, if you see Lady Gaga, tell her hello for me.” With that, I headed for my seat. There was a second woman sitting next to her wearing a hoodie. On the same row across from them was a beefy tall man in a blue shirt. Several people who looked to be backup dancers also sat in first class and the first couple of rows of coach.

There was also a woman who sat in the same area at the front of coach, wearing an obviously dark wig, large Jackie Onassis-style sunglasses, dressed in all black. She was of average height and of a thin build. During the flight, she thumbed through a Star magazine. She passed by me as she went to the restroom in the back of the plane, but didn’t say anything.

Since I was towards the back of the plane, I didn’t see the first class passengers leave, or even the woman in black. But the flight attendant did confirm that Lady Gaga was on the flight. When I got back to Texas, I searched the Web and found that “Lady Starlight” is the name of a DJ who worked with Lady Gaga early in her career. So, was “Lady Starlight” really Lady Gaga? Was she the woman in the hoodie? Or, was she the woman in black who sat in coach? I don’t doubt the airline and security personnel, so she “had” to be on the plane. But, who was she?

—  John Wright