Pakistan Deports CODEPINK Human Rights Activists
Pakistani authorities yesterday ordered the deportation of the leader of the feminist U.S. antiwar group Code Pink, who was in Lahore to join protests against the emergency rule imposed by President Pervez Musharraf, according to a spokeswoman for the group.
Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of the group, said she was arrested at a student demonstration by agents of the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence and detained for about four hours before being released with orders to leave the country this morning.
"I'm OK. A little shaken up," Ms. Benjamin told The Washington Times by telephone from her hotel in Lahore. "They mistreated us."
Ms. Benjamin said she feared for her life as the agents held her at gunpoint in a car speeding through the city to the police station.
"I thought I was going to die in the car," she said. "They totally terrorized us."
Pakistani authorities also detained and then ordered the deportation of Tighe Barry, a longtime Code Pink activist who was participating in the students' rally outside the Lahore Press Club.
"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," Ms. Benjamin said at the press club before her arrest. "If they do this to us, who have the protection of being U.S. citizens, imagine what they do to their own citizens."
Code Pink activists are arrested regularly in the U.S. for disrupting congressional hearings on the war, targeting Democrats and Republicans alike with protests. A Code Pink activist was arrested in October after rushing up to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, wrapping her arms around Miss Rice and screaming "war criminal" as she displayed her red-painted hands.
Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Barry have been in Pakistan since Nov. 25 to support opponents of the emergency rule, including lawyers, judges and students.
Earlier, they conducted a 24-hour vigil outside the home of lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who is under house arrest.
Ms. Benjamin said her ordeal in Pakistan had not changed her view of the protest she leads in the United States. Rather, she said, she was inspired by the struggle against emergency rule imposed Nov. 3 by Mr. Musharraf.
"We'll probably be doing a protest at the Pakistan Embassy as soon as we get back to D.C.," Ms. Benjamin said.
Ms. Benjamin and Mr. Barry plan to fly back to Washington today.
© 2007 The Washington Times