Two Yemeni brothers, one who married the daughter of a contemptuous general and the other who was jailed by the man's guards, have won permission to stay in the United States in a case stemming from the forbidden love.

A three-judge panel said this week that the Detroit-area brothers could be killed if they are forced to return home after fleeing in 1999. The decision reversed a ruling by an immigration board.

"They can live and work here. It's beautiful," their lawyer, Richard Kulics, said.

The Associated Press is not identifying the brothers because they fear their family could be persecuted in Yemen.

It was a cultural feud that brought the brothers and the bride to the U.S. A high-ranking general in Yemen did not approve of the courtship of his daughter by one of the men because they were associated with the lower meat-cutting class.

The couple secretly married in 1998, which enraged the general. He shot and wounded his son, who encouraged the relationship, and ordered his guards to search for the newlyweds, according to a summary of evidence relied on by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The couple hired a car to take them to refuge in Aden, seven hours from the capital, San'a. The general's guards, meanwhile, found the groom's brother and locked him up for three months.

They deprived him of sleep, plucked his chest hairs, forced him to defecate on himself and threw a dead cat covered with bees into his cell, according to the 6th Circuit ruling.

"We can kill your family," the guards told him.

Crying and ready to collapse, the brother fooled the guards by telling them the couple had fled to Saudi Arabia. A local officer took pity on him and, with the help of a district attorney, he finally was released. The general "went crazy" and made threats when he got the news, the court ruling said.

The three all obtained visas and traveled separately to the United States. In 2003, U.S. immigration authorities began deportation proceedings against the brothers, citing their expired visas. They have taken no action against the general's daughter.

The brothers responded by seeking asylum, but an immigration judge found they had missed the one-year deadline and said conditions had improved in Yemen. The men were rebuffed again at the Board of Immigration Appeals before getting a victory at the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati.

"The record contains ample evidence that the general will kill" the brothers and his own daughter if they are returned to Yemen, the court said. "Nothing in the record suggests that conditions in Yemen have changed such that the government there will be able to control the powerful general."