Pakistan police arrest US rights activists pressing for top lawyer's release

[JURIST] Pakistani police acting at the direction of what one official called "higher ups" arrested two American human rights activists in Lahore Tuesday, according to AP. Medea Benjamin [Wikipedia profile] and Tighe Barry are members of the US-based human rights group Global Exchange and the women's peace group CODEPINK [advocacy websites] and were protesting emergency rule, the dismissal of the country's superior court judges and the detention of leading lawyers. The arrests were confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad. The anonymous police official said the two were likely to be deported.

The activists held a vigil [CODEPINK materials] at the home of Supreme Court Bar Association president Aitzaz Ahsan [PILDAT profile] Sunday into Monday. Ahsan was arrested and jailed last month when Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf issued a declaration of emergency rule [PDF text]. The Pakistani government transferred Ahsan to house arrest last week so he could file as a candidate [Hindu report] for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party in upcoming parliamentary elections. Benjamin told JURIST is a statement Sunday that when she and Barry

tried to meet with Aitzaz Ahsan on December 1, they discovered that his home is still designated a "sub jail" and he remains hostage in his own home, unable to go out or to receive visitors. For that reason [we] decided to stage a vigil outside his home.
AP has more.

5:25 PM ET - CODEPINK's website now reports that Benjamin and Barry have been released from ISI (Pakistani intelligence agencies) custody and are safe but "quite shaken up":
The two have had their visas revoked and are being forcibly removed from the country on an early morning flight (in just a few hours Lahore time).... The reason for their forcible deportation is that under emergency rule, protests are illegal, therefore Benjamin and Barry have been participating in illegal acts punishable by deportation.

 

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