Wednesday, October 9, 2013

ShahzInvited to Testify by Congress, Anti-Drone Advocate Denied US Visa

ShahzInvited to Testify by Congress, Anti-Drone Advocate Denied US Visa
Pakistani lawyer represents victims of US drone attacks abroad, but their voices will be silenced, he says, if his travel is denied
Jon Queally Common Dreams September 25, 2013

ad Akbar (right), a well-known human rights lawyer and anti-drone advocate from Pakistan, has been denied entry to the US despite an invitation from Congress to testify about the destructive impact the US drone war is having on the families of victims in Pakistan. (File)
‘Failing to grant me a visa silences the 156 civilian drone strike victims and families that I represent.’ Shahzad Akbar, lawyer and victim advocate
Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer and legal fellow with the UK-based human rights group Reprieve, may not be given the chance to testify before Congress next week because the US has reportedly blocked his visa application, denying him entry.
According to The Guardian, Akbar—who also serves as director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights in Pakistan—has met roadblocks at the State Department over his attempts to travel, along with three of his clients, to Washington, DC in order to give family members of those killed by US drone attacks a chance to tell their stories directly to U.S. lawmakers and the American public at large.
The Guardian reports:
Akbar's clients, Rafiq ur-Rehman, his 13-year-old son, Zubair, and his nine-year-old daughter, Nabila, are from the tribal regions of north Waziristan. The children were injured in the alleged US strike on the village of Tappi last year. Their grandmother – Rehman's mother, Mamana – was killed.
Rehman and his children have spent months making preparations to visit Washington after being invited by US representatives to testify in the ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.
According to Akbar, his clients' visas for the trip have been approved, but his has not. He believes the hold-up is political……
According to Reprieve, which has worked closely with some of the victims that are also his clients, Akbar traveled regularly to the US prior to 2011. It was only when he began representing victims of CIA drone strikes, they said, that the lawyer began having significant difficulty getting his U.S. visa processed. This current instance is the second time that the US has failed to grant Mr Akbar a visa to speak at a U.S. event……
Akbar told The Guardian that he believes it's not necessarily the State Department, but another government agency, that may be blocking his entry. ‘We brought litigation, civil litigation and civil charges, against CIA officials in Pakistan for their role in drone strikes,’ he explained. ‘I think it's pretty clear that I have been blacklisted because of that.’
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