PM Ambushed on Civil Liberties
Gordon Brown heckled at Taking Liberties exhibition.
London - 30 October 2008
Prime Minister Gordon Brown was heckled as he finished his speech opening a new exhibition at the British Library last night (29 October 2008).
The new exhibition is entitled: Taking Liberties - The Struggle for Britain's Freedoms and Rights.
Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell took a few liberties of his own, confronting Gordon Brown with the question:
"Prime Minister, having seen this exhibition, can you tell us what you have learned about the preservation of liberty, given that the Labour government has done more to undermine civil liberties than any government since World War Two?"
"Gordon Brown ducked his head down and shuffled his feet, declining to reply," said Mr Tatchell.
"He was caught out, embarrassed and speechless. I am surprised that he did not even attempt to defend the government's record."
As the Prime Minister prepared to leave the exhibition Mr Tatchell challenged him again; this time about what he called the "framing" of two London-based Balochistan human rights campaigners, Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch.
See details below.
"They are on trial in London on charges of terrorism concocted by the agents of the former Pakistani dictator, Pervez Musharraf," said Mr Tatchell.
"How can Gordon Brown talk about defending liberty when his government supported the Musharraf dictatorship and is now colluding with false charges against Baloch activists who are defenders of democracy and human rights?
"The Prime Minister's speech praised the British tradition liberty but Labour's policies are undermining it. The extension of detention without charge to 28 days, restrictions on the right to protest near parliament, increased interception of phone calls and emails and planned IDs cards are all symptoms of ever greater state surveillance and snooping. Labour is expanding the powers of the state at the expense of the rights of the citizen," said Mr Tatchell.
London terror trial - Defendants framed
Human rights activists on terrorism charges
UK colludes with Musharraf's agents
London UK - 30 October 2008
Two London-based human rights campaigners will stand trial on terrorism charges, starting next Monday 3 November at Woolwich Crown Court in London, before Mr Justice Henriques.
"This trial will expose high level collusion between the British government and the agents of the former Pakistani dictator, Pervez Musharraf," according to human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who is a personal friend and political ally of the two defendants.
"These men were framed by the Musharraf regime, to silence their highly effective campaigning against Pakistani human rights abuses in Balochistan," added Mr Tatchell.
"The British government was blackmailed into arresting them. Musharraf's agents issued an ultimatum to the UK authorities: arrest these men or we will halt all cooperation in the war on terror. The Labour government caved in to these demands from Musharraf's dictatorship. It decided these men were expendable for the so-called greater good of anti-terrorist cooperation with the Pakistani regime," said Mr Tatchell.
The defendants are Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch. They are accused of preparing acts of terrorism abroad - charges they strenuously deny. Both men have been law-abiding citizens. They fled to Britain to escape persecution by the military coup leader and tyrant, General Pervez Musharraf.
Mr Marri is represented by Jim Nichol of TV Edwards Taylor Nichol solicitors (020 7272 8336) and Mr Baluch is represented by Gareth Peirce of Birnberg Peirce solicitors (020 7911 0166).
Mr Marri is a former MP and government minister in the regional assembly of Balochistan - a previously independent state, which was invaded and annexed by Pakistan in 1948, and which has ever since been under Pakistani military occupation.
Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan and the Asian Human Rights Commission have documented and condemned severe and widespread human rights abuses by the Pakistani armed forces in Balochistan - abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas and the systemic use of torture.
Mr Marri's father, Nawab Khair Baksh Marri, a renowned Baloch national leader, attended Queen Elizabeth II's coronation in 1953, along with other world dignitaries, as a guest of the British government.
His uncle is Ashraf Jehangir Qazi, the UN Special Representative to Sudan and the former Pakistan Ambassador to the United States, and his wife is the great grand daughter of the first Prime Minister of Iraq (1920-1922), Abdul Rahman al Gillani.
Mr Marri and Mr Baluch, were arrested by police in London last December. Mr Marri spent four months in Belmarsh high security prison, and Mr Baluch eight months.
"The police and security agencies in the UK have pursued these terror charges based on evidence provided to them by Musharraf's dictatorship - a dictatorship that the arrested men campaigned against," said Mr Tatchell.
"Our government has ignored the fact that Musharraf's henchmen in the Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, are notorious for framing political opponents, especially Baloch nationalists.
"Marri and Baluch have been set up by Musharraf's agents because of their highly effective exposure of Pakistan's war crimes and crimes against humanity in annexed Balochistan.
"This belief has been reinforced by the acting Interior Minister of the new democratic government of Pakistan, Rehman Malik. He recently announced that terror charges against Mr Marri in Pakistan have been dropped; stating that the case against him had been politically motivated. This discredits the whole basis on which Marri and Baluch have been charged in London.
"Marri's and Baluch's arrest came just a few months after Musharraf demanded that the British government arrest Baloch activists in London. In exchange, Musharraf offered to hand over Rashid Rauf, implying that action against the Baloch activists was a precondition for surrendering Rauf to the UK. Rauf is wanted in this country in connection with the 2006 Islamist terror plot involving liquid explosives on trans-Atlantic airliners, which resulted in the conviction of three men in London in September. He is also sought in connection with a murder in the UK.
"The arrest in London of Marri and Baluch took place two weeks after Pakistani government agents assassinated Marri's brother, Balach Marri, a prominent Baloch nationalist leader.
"Prior to Marri's arrest, Musharraf's regime made repeated representations to the UK government that he was wanted on terrorism charges in Pakistan - charges that have now been dropped by the Pakistani authorities.
"Soon after Musharraf met Gordon Brown at Downing Street in January this year, he held a press conference for Pakistani journalists where he allegedly denounced Marri as a terrorist and praised the British government and police for cooperating with his regime.
"Claims of connivance are credible. For nine years, the UK's Labour government supported Musharraf's dictatorship politically, economically and militarily, despite him having overthrown Pakistan's democratically-elected government in 1999. Labour even sold him the military equipment that his army uses to kill innocent Baloch people.
"Marri is an unlikely terrorist. He is a former Balochistan MP (1997-2002), and was the Minster for Construction and Works in the provincial assembly in 1997-1998. He fled to Britain in 2000, fearing arrest, torture and possible assassination by Musharraf's men.
"One of his brothers is Mehran Baluch. He is the Baloch Representative to the UN Human Rights Council. He was the subject of an attempted extradition plot last year by Musharraf's regime, on trumped up charges.
"The arrest of Marri - together with the murder of one brother and the attempt to frame another brother - looks like a systematic attempt to target his family and crush three leading voices of Baloch dissent.
"A former British Protectorate, Balochistan secured its independence in 1947, alongside India and Pakistan, but was invaded and forcibly annexed by Pakistan in 1948. The Baloch people did not vote for incorporation. They were never given a choice. Ever since, Balochistan has been under military occupation by Islamabad. Baloch demands for a referendum on self-rule have been rejected. Democratically elected Baloch leaders who have refused to kow-tow to Pakistan's subjugation have been arrested, jailed and murdered.
"The Asian Human Rights Commission reports that Pakistani army raids have resulted in 3,000 Baloch people dead, 200,000 displaced and 4,000 arrested. Thousands more have simply disappeared," said Mr Tatchell.
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