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US Activist Tighe Barry Arrested at US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on Assistance to Pakistan
On December 6, Tighe Barry, a CODEPINK activist who along with Medea Benjamin was deported from Pakistan at gunpoint for supporting pro-democracy forces, was arrested at the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on US Assistance to Pakistan.
Barry and Benjamin, deported on December 5, flew directly to Washington DC 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.
The first to testify was Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs. His testimony was infuriating to Barry, Benjamin and the 10 other CODEPINK activists who were in attendance and holding up signs saying "No Money To Musarraf".
Mr. Boucher gave the impression that Pakistan was on the path to democracy and that our billions of dollars in assistance was being well used. He called the state of emergency a mere "bump in the road." The travesty of sacking the independent Supreme Court judges and replacing them with Musharraf allies was called a "Supreme Court reshuffling." While admitting that the elections would not be "perfect," he asserted that the State Department was working closely with Pakistani officials to ensure that the elections are free, fair, transparent and credible.
He went on to say that democracy also requires accountable government institutions, including an independent judiciary, protection of individual human rights, a free and dynamic press, an atmosphere promoting open debate, and a vibrant civil society. "Pakistan is making progress toward those goals," he claimed,
Having just witnessed firsthand the thuggery of Musharraf's regime, Barry could not believe his ears. He 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," said Barry. "The U.S. 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."
Barry was pulled out of the room, handcuffed, and put in a paddywagon. "I felt compelled to do this for the sake of my friends in Pakistan," he said as they took him away. "Pakistanis risk their lives standing up to their government; I have to stand up to mine."
Barry was cited and released, and must appear in Court on December 27 to face charges of Disorderly Conduct.