The Tokyo District Court granted refugee status Tuesday to an Afghan journalist, nullifying an earlier decision by the justice minister denying him asylum and ordering him deported.

Presiding Judge Toshihiko Tsuruoka said the man, whose name was withheld to protect his identity, would face persecution in his homeland for reporting news stories critical of Afghanistan’s former Taliban rulers and the Northern Alliance-led government that succeeded them.

“(The journalist) would be targeted because he has reported on the Taliban regime’s public executions and on the robbing of cultural assets by the former Northern Alliance,” Tsuruoka said.

He said the Justice Ministry’s decision to reject the application for refugee status was made five months after the collapse of the Taliban, and Afghanistan was under the rule of the Northern Alliance.

“He was facing the danger of persecution,” Tsuruoka said.

The man said after the ruling, “It’s been a long time since I came to Japan. I cannot completely wipe out (my) concerns because the state may appeal.”

According to the ruling, the journalist wrote a story in a magazine around 1999 that criticized the former Northern Alliance for robbing cultural assets in Afghanistan.

After entering Japan via Iran, the man applied for refugee status in December 2000, but the application was rejected in May 2002 and he was issued a deportation order.

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