Wednesday, December 5, 2007

US Human Rights Activists Harassed!

Press Release: December 4
Contact in Pakistan: 0308-204-2346

US Human Rights Activists Harassed by Pakistani GovernmentU.S. human rights activists Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry were on their way to a student rally at the Lahore Press Club at 3pm on Tuesday, December 4, when they were stopped outside the Club gates by six plainclothes government agents. They were told they had to leave the country because their visas had expired. Both, however, have valid visas.The government agents grabbed Barry by the arm and tried to hold him. Benjamin got help from some journalists, who managed to escort the two activists inside the Club. At 5pm, prominent lawyer Khummeram Khosa drove his car into the Press Club premises to escort the activists out of the Club. The government agents, on three motorcycles, followed their car through the city streets. When the activists tried to call the media, they discovered that their phone was being jammed. The activists returned to the Press Club to alert the media about this harassment. They also advised the U.S. Embassy. "It's a sad state of affairs when the Pakistani government—a government that is trying to portray itself to the West as democratic—tries to harass and deport U.S. human rights activists," say Benjamin. "If they do this to us, who have the protection of being US citizens, imagine what they do to their own citizens." "We will not be intimidated," says Barry. "We will continue our activities here in support of Pakistanis struggling for democracy, and we call on the Pakistani government to stop harassing us and respect our rights." Benjamin and Barry are members of the U.S. human rights group Global Exchange and the women's peace group CODEPINK. They have been in Pakistan since November 25 on a mission to learn about and support Pakistani civil society. They have been meeting with lawyers, students, judges, journalists and political leaders. They also conducted a 24-hour vigil outside the home of prominent lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who is under house arrest. Through these activities, they have received tremendous support and appreciation from the Pakistani people. Today, they received a Letter of Thanks from the Lahore High Court Bar Association. The lawyer extended "heartfelt gratitude for showing solidarity with the legal community of Pakistan" and for helping to "boost the moral of the Pakistani lawyers in their just struggle for the restoration of the Constitution."

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