US Activists Not Allowed to Visit Lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan Under House Arrest

Contact: Contact in Pakistan: 0308-204-2346
December 3rd, 2007

Condemn Pakistani Government's Decision to Extend House Arrest for 30 Days

Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry, members of the U.S. human rights group Global Exchange and the women's peace group CODEPINK, conducted a 24-hour vigil outside the home of Aitzaz Ahsan as a protest against the lawyer's continued detention. The jailers placed outside his home refused to let the visiting activists meet with him.

Even worse, the 30-day detention against Mr. Ahsan--set to expire on December 2—was renewed for another 30 days. Upon hearing the news, Mr. Atizaz, his family and the activists camped outside his door were devastated.

"We strongly condemn the continued detention of Mr. Ahsan. If Pervez Musharraf is committed to democracy and fair elections, then why does he detain—without charges--a man who is not only the head of the nation's Supreme Court Bar Association but also a candidate for the National Assembly? That's just unacceptable," says U.S. activist Tighe Barry.

"Aitzaz Ahsan and the other lawyers and judges still under detention must be released and reinstated before there can even be talk about free and fair elections in Pakistan," says Medea Benjamin of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. "The US government, if it wants to support democracy in Pakistan, should be supporting the lawyers, journalists, students and civil society, not Musharraf."

Despite the disappointment of not seeing Mr. Ahsan, the two activists who spent the night—in the cold—sleeping outside his home, left the vigil feeling renewed. "We were amazed by the reaction of the Pakistani people to our gesture of solidarity. All night long and then again the next morning, people came on foot, bike and car to show support for us," said Barry. "They brought us soup, tea, sandwiches, sweets, flowers. It was so touching."

"One woman who came to see us said, 'If someone shows us a little bit of love, we'll shower them with love in return.' That is certainly what we felt," says Benjamin. "We were visited by students, businessmen, government workers, women with their young daughters (dressed in pink), labor leaders, lawyers. A journalist came at 1am with tea, cookies and warm jackets for us to wear. The police stationed outside Mr. Ahsan's home built us a campfire to keep us warm. We left the vigil in awe of the generosity, kindness we received from the Pakistani people."