A JOURNALIST who fears he would be murdered if forced to return to Iraq has won a ten-month battle to live in the UK.

Mohamad Star Saeed (26), of Gladstone Street, Bury, arrived in the UK last August after terrorists kidnapped his brother, killed two of his colleagues and threatened to kill him and the rest of his family.

The Home Office wanted to send him back, but, with the support of local campaign groups and the Bury Times, Mohamad fought on and discovered the latest ruling on Tuesday.

"I am overwhelmed," said the former TV presenter, who has spoken briefly to his family just twice on the phone since leaving his homeland. "It is just a huge relief and weight off my back."

The ruling brings to an end an incredible story, which began in February 2005, when Mohamad got a job working on a television channel in Kirkuk, a city to the north of Baghdad.

He quickly became popular at the channel and a celebrity in his community, but media figures are regular targets of militant groups responsible for numerous kidnappings and murders.

In May that year Mohamad's friend Saman Abdullah was executed by gunmen, shortly before another of his colleagues was also assassinated.

Despite facing a constant risk, Mohamad worked on and managed to avoid conflict until last August when the Jihad U Tawheed group - more commonly known as Al Qaeda in Iraq - kidnapped his 12-year-old brother Bilal, who is still missing today and is feared dead.

In a phone call and on a CD audio clip, the terrorist group ordered Mohamad to help them kidnap the daughter of the local mayor, Payam Rahman, who was a family friend.

Mohamad hid the instruction from his family and the mayor, until his sister, Sara, and Payam discovered the audio clip.

Scared the terrorists or the mayor would seek reprisals, Mohamad paid the mafia £3,000 to escape to England in a series of lorries.

The Home Office rejected Mohamad's asylum request. A case worker called his story "incredible", meaning it was hard to believe.

After speaking to the Bury Times in March, Mohamad made contact with the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) and the Refugee/Action Participatory Action Research group (RAPAR), which offered him support and campaigned on his behalf.

A hearing took place at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in Manchester at the start of May. Mohamad had to prove his life would be under threat if he returned to Iraq.

Part of the evidence presented to the judge was a Bury Times article on Mohamad's case. The judge praised the paper for the standard of our coverage.

The Home Office said he wouldn't be under threat specifically because of his job, but Judge Fountain disagreed and Mohamad will now be free to live and work in the UK and, due to his technical and linguistic skills - he speaks three languages fluently - Mohamad expects to begin work in the media as soon as documentation allows.

He said: "I am still getting over this wonderful decision and then I will decide what to do. I plan to contact my father now to let him know what has happened now everything is resolved.

"I want to thank the Bury Times for bringing my case to light and the NUJ and RAPAR. They have been very helpful and have restored my faith. I now know that the judge and the tribunal system were impartial."

NUJ northern regional organiser Chris Morley said: "We are absolutely delighted that Mohamad is now safe and doesn't have to worry now about going back into a situation where his life is under threat.

"He is now a member of the NUJ. We take the safety of all journalists extremely seriously and when they come to the UK, we will always try to take up their case and to protect them. In this case, we have got the right result."

His comments were echoed by Dr Rhetta Moran, of RAPAR, who said Mohamad's case would set a legal precedent for other people in his position.

Sue Arnall, a volunteer with an asylum seekers support group at the Mosses Centre, in Cecil Street, Bury, said it was heartening that some people were being granted refugee status when so many others fail.