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Father Of Self-Exiled Pakistani Rights Activist Sent To Pretrial Detention


FILE: Pakistani activist Gulalai Ismail during an interview with AFP in Washington in September 19.

A Pakistani judge has ordered the father of exiled human rights activist Gulalai Ismail be held in detention while awaiting trial for supporting of a movement that campaigns for civil rights for ethnic Pashtuns, his lawyer says.

Lawyer Shahabuddin Khattak told RFE/RL on October 25 that his client, Mohammad Ismail, was brought to the Peshawar High Court, where a judge ordered him held in pretrial detention for two weeks,

Khattak said he will ask for bail for his client -- a professor who, along with his wife, has repeatedly accused the police and intelligence officials of harassment.

His daughter fled to the United States earlier this year to avoid harassment by security agencies and surfaced in the United States last month seeking asylum.

She has been a supporter of the Pashtun Protection Movement (PTM), which has criticized the Pakistani military's operations in the country's tribal regions.

Earlier in the day, Gulalai Ismail told RFE/RL by telephone from the United States that men "dressed in militia dress" had "abducted" her father while he was returning home after a hearing at the Peshawar High Court.

She later tweeted that she learned her father had been "brought to the court premises," adding: "He is in bad shape, seems untested, unwell and hypertensed."

Alice Wells, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, expressed concern over "reports of the continued harassment of Gulalai Ismail's family, and her father's detention today."

"We encourage Pakistan to uphold citizens’ rights to peaceful assembly, expression, and due process," Wells tweeted.

Human rights groups have accused Pakistani authorities of cracking down on PTM members and supporters.

Gulalai Ismail, 33, faces allegations of committing "anti-state activities" in Pakistan stemming from her participation in a rally organized by the PTM in August 2018.

In November 2018, she was detained by Pakistani federal agents after landing at Islamabad airport.

She was released on bail, but authorities confiscated her passport and placed her on the Exit Control List, barring her from leaving the country, based on allegations stemming from a speech Ismail gave during the August rally.

The activist has denied the allegations against her, telling RFE/RL in November that they were "part of a malicious attempt by state actors to silence human rights defenders."

Ismail, who won the Anna Politkovskaya Award in 2017 for campaigning against religious extremism, went on the run from authorities in Pakistan, saying she feared being sent to prison on what she and others consider to be trumped-up charges.

She managed to flee the country through Sri Lanka and arrived in New York City in September. At the time, she expressed concerns over the fate of her family and friends, who she said had been "harassed" by the authorities while she was in hiding in her country.

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