WASHINGTON, Dec 7: Just hours after they arrived home after being deported from Pakistan, one of the two American human rights activists was arrested in Washington for protesting during a congressional hearing.
Tighe Barry was held under detention for five hours and is now required to return for a court hearing on Dec 27.
On Friday, Mr Barry and Medea Benjamin, who went to Pakistan to support the pro-democracy movement, protested outside the State Department, urging the US administration to discontinue its support to the Pakistani government until democracy is fully restored.
They were backed by a dozen activists of CODEPINK, a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement working to end the war in Iraq, stop new wars, and redirect US resources into healthcare, education and other life-affirming activities.
“We are very upset that the US government continues to give Mr Musharraf $100 million a month,” said Ms Benjamin while talking to Dawn. “We want this suspended until the Pakistani government respects the rule of law,” she said.
“We were kidnapped, hijacked and terrorised in Pakistan. Our only crime: supporting the pro-democracy movement. We were not accused of anything else.”
On Monday, CODEPINK plans to demonstrate outside the Pakistan Embassy in Washington.
On Dec 6, Mr Barry, who along with Ms Benjamin was deported from Pakistan, was arrested at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on US assistance to Pakistan.
The two flew directly from Pakistan to Washington to attend this hearing. They had asked for the opportunity to testify “about their firsthand experience with the heroism of Pakistan’s civil society and the brutality of the government, but were told that the witnesses had already been selected,” Ms Benjamin said.
The first to testify was Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs.
His testimony infuriated about a dozen CODEPINK activists who were in attendance, holding up signs saying “No Money To Musharraf.” When Mr Boucher described the emergency as a mere “bump in the road,” Mr Barry stood up in protest, saying that the assistant secretary’s testimony was ‘full of lies.’
“Musharraf has beaten lawyers and students, destroyed the judiciary, and censored the press,” he shouted.
“The US must freeze all funding to this military government until emergency rule is lifted, the independent judiciary is reinstated, the censorship of the media is lifted, and all judges, lawyers, students and human rights defenders are released.”
Committee’s chairman, Senator Robert Menendez, asked the security to remove him. He was pulled out of the room, handcuffed, and put in a police van.
“I felt compelled to do this for the sake of my friends in Pakistan,” he said as they took him away. Mr Barry was cited and released, and must appear in Court on Dec 27 to face charges of disorderly conduct.