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    US rights activists begins vigil at Pak lawyer's house

    Lahore (PTI): Two US human rights activists began a vigil outside the home here of top Pakistani lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been under house arrest since the imposition of emergency last month. Medea Benjamin and Tighe Barry, members of the American human rights groups Global Exchange and women's peace group Code Pink, have been outside Ahsan's house since midnight.

    "We have come to meet this man, who we have heard is one of the great heroes of the struggle for democracy in Pakistan. We will sit patiently in front of his door and ask officials to let us in," said Benjamin.

    Both activists are camping outside Ahsan's house with sleeping bags. Ahsan's wife Bushra Aitzaz told reporters that the order for her husband's detention expired on Sunday and no fresh order has been issued by the authorities.

    Police officials indicated that a decision on whether the lawyer would be detained further would be taken later. The lawyer's home was declared a "sub-jail" and no one but his close relatives have been allowed to meet him. Benjamin said Pakistani government representatives in the US had told rights activists that the arrested lawyers had been released. "But when we tried to meet Ahsan yesterday we realised his home was still designated as a sub-jail,"he said.

    Barry said: "The President (Pervez Musharraf) is telling the world that he is committed to democracy. So it is outrageous that Aitzaz Ahsan, the head of the nation's Supreme Court Bar Association, remains under house arrest." Ahsan, who is also a leader of the Pakistan People's Party, was part of the team of lawyers that defended deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry when Musharraf tried to suspend him in March. Like Ahsan, Chaudhry too is under house arrest in his official residence in Islamabad.


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