Sunday People

Abuser allowed to stay in Britain



AN Iraqi paedophile was spared deportatio­n after claiming he feared persecutio­n back home because he is bisexual.

The man, known only as MA due to an anonymity order, entered the UK illegally in September 2017. In November 2018 he was jailed for 10 months for abusing a child and ordered to sign the sex offender register.

Home Office officials wanted to deport him after his sentence. Deportatio­n papers were signed and in 2019 an order was made to turf him out of Britain.

But the pervert won a last-ditch legal bid to stay after telling an immigratio­n tribunal he should be protected on human rights grounds “on the basis of his bisexualit­y” as he was at risk of “honour-based violence”. He also claimed protection under his right to a family life in the UK.

Contesting the ruling, Home Secretary Suella Braverman claimed that MA told “numerous lies”.

Government lawyers said: “It is not accepted the appellant is at risk of persecutio­n because of his sexuality and it is considered his deportatio­n is in the public interest given the offence committed and likelihood of reoffendin­g.”

But upper tribunal judge Therese Kamara, sitting in Central London, backed the initial ruling. She told the appeal hearing: “The fear of persecutio­n at the hands of Braverman

his family owing to his sexuality is a relevant factor.

“As is the potential risk from the public, discrimina­tion by the authoritie­s [and] the absence of protection for LGBTI people.”

LEO Gipari will never forget the moment he went totally ape on a family holiday in 2018.

And five years on, they are proud of him for it – even though partner Casey, his university sweetheart, never expected having to share him with a band of fierce, chestthump­ing love rivals.

On that sleepless night in Singapore, the jet-lagged property businessma­n with a love of nature and adventure realised what he wanted to do with his life: rescue the world’s critically endangered mountain gorillas.

Since then, Leo, 42, has completed challenges such as gruelling ultra marathons, covering more than 2,174 miles in three years, including training, to raise £152,000 for projects aimed at saving the magnificen­t creatures. Only 1,063 remain in the wild.

And in 2019 he and Casey, 40 – who shares his love of nature – also launched the That Gorilla Brand which produces ethically sourced clothing to help fund the Gorilla Organisati­on that keeps the animals safe from extinction.

Leo’s eureka moment that Singapore night on a trip to Bali with Casey and their three children was later reinforced during a five-day trip to Uganda in February 2020, the East African home of many mountain gorillas.

Leo says: “You often see gorillas as these big, fierce fighting animals, but they are also caring, protective and there is so much love, strength and loyalty.

“When you really look at them close up, you realise how alike we are to them – and how these incredible animals will be lost if we don’t help them.

“I was sitting among a family of 12 gorillas, with babies jumping over mothers, and swinging from trees. Watching them pick their eyes and scratch their face like we do, I realised how similar we were to them.” And there was one gorilla there that will always have a special place in his heart – a silverback called Rafiki.

Leo says: “He was enormous, majestic, lying down and holding a baby in his hand and you could just see the love between father and son.” A few months later, in

June 2020, Leo was devastated to learn Rafiki had been killed by a poacher who was hunting other game after illegally entering the gorillas’ protected area.

He says: “For Rafiki to die just a few months after I saw him brought home to me how important it was to help local communitie­s as well as the gorillas.”

Leo knew then that he had to search for big, almost impossible challenges to raise enough funds to make a difference to the human and gorilla population­s.

So he decided the best way was to include something he’d normally avoid doing: “I hate running, but I knew that would raise the money and get the support we needed, if I took on mammoth challenges.”

His first in June 2021 was to climb Mount Olympus in Greece. “When I looked down the mountain, all I could see was an endless pit with dark grey clouds,” he recalls. “It was as much a mental battle as it was a physical one.”

Then came a marathon in Iceland. “That was a very emotional journey because more than half of it was done on my own

– and I had no idea how long it would take,” he says. “I just kept thinking about the gorillas and wanting to inspire others and my three children. Towards the end, my brother and my family made a surprise Whatsapp video call, yelling me on to the finish line.”

Leo went on to traverse the Grand Canyon in a 47-mile Clean Rim-to-rim-to-rim water project run, and completed Jordan’s Wadi Desert Marathon in 2022. But he reckons his hardest challenge was the 26-mile Mardi Himal trek in mountainou­s Nepal. “We were on the tail end of a typhoon with torrential rain,” he says. “I’d heard all these stories about landslides, people being killed and road closures.

“I’d repeat the word ‘positive’ in my head every morning to eliminate negative thoughts – and we made it up after four days.”

His most recent run was Uganda’s Lake Mutanda Ultra 31-miler in January this year, joined by a local running team.

Leo, who has homes in Gerrards Cross, Bucks, and Athens, says he saw Rafiki’s family again on that visit, making all the challenges worthwhile.

“Often, when a silverback is killed, the family disintegra­tes and other silverback­s come in and take over the females and children, but Rafiki’s family had survived,” he says. “It was his younger two brothers that had taken over – it was amazing.” Leo was also treated to the rare experience of seeing two gorilla families meet.

He says: “I was standing in this river, about a metre and a half wide, with 15 gorillas to my right and eight gorillas to my left, watching them posturing and beating their chests at each other.


“I had a lump in my throat. It was so special, like a thank you from Rafiki. I have an enormous picture of him in my office, which reminds me why we do this .”

One of the biggest causes of deforestat­ion of the gorillas’ habitat is people not having access to safe drinking water .

Money raised through The Gorilla Brand and Leo’s challenges now totals around £220,000, which has helped provide 15,000 locals with clean accessible water through the Bwindi Community Water Project – meaning they don’t have to wreck the gorillas’ habitat in the search for sources. And 474 leaders have been trained to promote hygiene awareness in their community.

“By helping the humans, we are helping the gorillas,” Leo says. “We want to inspire people to do good for the planet.”

While Leo says it is impossible to gauge exactly how many gorillas his fundraisin­g has saved, numbers are rising and they have moved off the critical list.

Casey is hoping to make her first trip to see them next January, and Leo wants to take his children over when they are older.

Meanwhile he has yet another challenge coming up in November – the Navarino Marathon in Greece. “I am enormously proud of him,” says Casey “It’s astonishin­g now to think that all this came from an idea on a random jetlagged night.”

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