Subject: Expulsion of Human Rights Activist Overturned
From: "Mexico Solidarity Network" <msn@Plevin.COM>

Press release For immediate release

September 14, 1998


Subject: Mexican expulsion of US human rights worker overturned in federal court

Contact: Tom Hansen, 773-583-7728 (Chicago), MSN@mexicosolidarity.org
Barbara Zamora, 525-546-3411 (Mexico City)

The expulsion of human rights activist Tom Hansen from Mexico by immigration officials has been overturned in Federal Court in Mexico City. Hansen received a judicial injunction allowing him to return to Mexico at any time. The decision, rendered by Eighth District Judge Lilia Monica Lopez Benitez, stated that Hansen's activities in Mexico could not "in any way be considered illegal or dishonest."

Hansen was expelled on February 19, 1998, as part of a campaign targeting foreign human rights observers. At least 185 foreigners have been expelled from Chiapas in the past six months. Immigration officials sited Hansen's participation as an observer at peace talks between the EZLN and the government in 1996 and his attendance at the Intercontinental Gathering Against Neoliberalism also in 1996 as reasons for the expulsion. On both occasions Hansen traveled to Mexico under a standard tourist visa, and immigration officials expelled him for "activities inconsistent with a tourist visa."

Judge Lopez Benito found that simple observation of events does not constitute a violation of the tourist visa: "what the plaintiff is charged with is that he was a simple spectator, never a participant or intervener, for which he was not required to ask permission from the Secretariat of Interior. In addition, there is no judicial criteria that states that to contemplate something by sight is against the law." The Judge's ruling calls into question the basis for many recent expulsions of foreign human rights observers.

The decision also calls into question new Mexican Immigration requirements for special visas for human rights observers. The Judge states that "the act of 'observing' is not authorized by the status of Non-immigrant Visitor, which strengthens the criteria that we cannot be restricted to what is listed in each section, but rather to what is its essence, and besides, what is not prohibited is permitted."

The decision also notes several serious violations of Hansen's constitutional rights, including the lack of legal council during questioning, despite repeated requests by Hansen for a lawyer, and the fact that Immigration authorities took Hansen into custody without obtaining a legal summons. The decision states that Hansen "was deprived of the assistance of a defender or a person he trusted which is a constitutional right." The decision further states that Hansen "was intercepted by agents of the National Institute of Immigration who took him to a small immigration office in Altamirano, Chiapas, where some agents threatened him, contradicting the supposed voluntary meeting with authorities, and it leads to the logical conclusion that no summons was issued as the rules of law require. Besides that (Hansen) indicates that he was in the state of Chiapas on an imminently cultural activity."

"I'm very happy that this has been resolved," stated Hansen. "I can't wait to return to Mexico, a country that I have come to love as much as my own." Hansen is the National Coordinator of the Mexico Solidarity Network, a coalition of 65 organizations dedicated to solidarity with the people of Mexico.

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