US Government Should Re-issue Visa for Pakistani Human Rights Defender, Urges Amnesty International

For Immediate Release

Amnesty International
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AIUSA media office, 202-544-0200 x302,
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US Government Should Re-issue Visa for Pakistani Human Rights Defender, Urges Amnesty International

Wife of Disappeared Pakistani Businessman Amina Masood’s Visit to Meet With US Officials Postponed

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International today
called on the U.S. government to re-issue a visa to Pakistani human rights
defender Amina Masood, after an earlier visa was revoked on "security
and related grounds."

The human rights organization also asked
the U.S. authorities to clarify why the previous visa was revoked. Despite
Amnesty International's request to them to explain the precise grounds
on which Amina's visa was withdrawn, no response has been forthcoming.
Amina Masood had been invited by Amnesty International on a speaker's
tour of Europe and the United States to campaign on enforced disappearances
in Pakistan.

"It is baffling that the U.S. authorities
deem Amina Masood a threat to U.S. security," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty
International's Asia Pacific director. "Over the past three years Amina
has campaigned peacefully, tirelessly and with great dignity for the government
of Pakistan to reveal the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of disappeared
people - including her own husband Masood Janjua - while condemning acts
of terrorism."

The U.S. Embassy in Islamabad issued Amina
Masood with a visa on August 12. However, as she was about to board a plane
en route to Washington, D.C. on September 13, an embassy official called
to say that her visa had been revoked and warned her that if she boarded
the plane, she would not be allowed to enter the United States and would
be deported back to Pakistan.

She was told by the embassy official that
her visa had been withdrawn under Section 212(a) 3 of the U.S. Immigration
and Nationality Act, which covers "security and related grounds." This
section relates to acts such as espionage, sabotage and terrorist activities.

Amnesty International also calls on the U.S.
authorities to co-operate with Pakistan's new government to resolve all
cases of enforced disappearance and to ensure the practice is brought to
an end.

"The U.S. government must ensure that it
is not complicit in, contributing to, or tolerating the practice of enforced
disappearances in Pakistan. Many people who have been secretly detained
in detention centers in Pakistan say they were interrogated by Pakistani
intelligence agencies but also by foreign intelligence agencies", said
Zarifi.

"At a time when there is rising anti-Americanism
in Pakistan and when many Pakistanis blame the U.S. government for encouraging
the practice of enforced disappearances and other human rights violations
in their country, the U.S. government should re-issue a visa to Amina Masood."

Background

Amina Masood is the founder and chairperson
of Defence of Human Rights, a Pakistani organization that campaigns for
the release of the disappeared. She speaks for 563 families of the disappeared.

She co-founded the group after her husband
Masood Janjua was apprehended while travelling on a bus three years ago.
His fate and whereabouts remain unknown.

Since Pakistan joined the U.S.-led "war
on terror" in late 2001, hundreds of people suspected of links to terrorist
activity or nationalist groups have been subjected to enforced disappearance.
They have been arbitrarily detained and held in secret facilities. Denied
access to lawyers, families or courts and held outside the all protection
of the law, they are victims of enforced disappearance. Most, if not all,
are subjected to torture and other ill-treatment.

Over the past few weeks Amina Masood has
raised the issue of enforced disappearances in meetings with government
officials in the United Kingdom, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and at the
United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

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Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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