For Immediate Release: December 4th, 2007
Contact:  CONTACT: Gael Murphy 202 412 6700
Dana Balicki 202 422 8624

US Human Rights Activists Detained by Pakistani Government Today

U.S. human rights activists Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry were arrested by plain clothes police officers and are being held at Race Course Police Station in Lahore today.  Benjamin and Barry were on their way from a student rally at the Lahore Press Club on Tuesday, December 4, when they were followed by police on motorcycles -as they tried to alert media they realized their phones were jammed. They returned to the Press Club to alert the media and call the US Embassy about the harassment, and made the statements below. It was as they left the Press Club the second time they were stopped outside the gates by six civilian "secret service" agents, guns drawn at the car. The driver was ordered out and the police confiscated the vehicle with Benjamin and Barry inside.

"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 morale of the Pakistani lawyers in their just struggle for the restoration of the Constitution." They were told today they had to leave the country because their visas had expired. Both, however, have valid visas.

For more information on the delegation