Subject: Expulsion overturned
Date: Mon, 13 Sep 1999 20:49:19 -0500
From: "Mexico Solidarity Network" <msn@mexicosolidarity.org>

Press Release For Immediate Release September 13,
1999

Contact: Tom Hansen, 773-583-7728
msn@mexicosolidarity.org

Subject: Mexican Court Overturns Expulsion of Human Rights Activist Decision Highlights Illegality of Government Expulsion Campaign

In a unanimous decision, a three member tribunal of the Supreme Court of Mexico overturned the expulsion of Tom Hansen, Director of the Mexico Solidarity Network, upholding a decision rendered by a lower court in August of 1998.

Hansen was expelled from Mexico on February 18, 1998, for the act of "observation" which Immigration authorities considered to be "inconsistent with a tourist visa." Under the terms of the expulsion, he was banned from returning to Mexico. Complete details on the expulsion are available at the end of this press release.

The decision calls into question more than 150 expulsions carried out by the National Institute of Immigration over the past two years. Most of the expulsions were exercised against foreign human rights observers who were present in indigenous communities in the southern state of Chiapas at the invitation of those communities. "Mexican citizens should have the right to associate with whomever they choose in their own communities," said Hansen.

"This campaign of expulsions is an affront to every Mexican citizen."

The program of human rights observation, both by Mexican citizens and international observers, has been very effective. Since 1994, not one extra-judicial murder has occurred in an indigenous community in Chiapas where human rights observers have been present. "I would think this record would convince the Mexican government to invite this kind of observation," said Hansen. "Instead, Immigration authorities seem bent on expelling people who are saving lives."

The three judge panel was under a great deal of pressure to rule against Hansen. When a lower court overturned the expulsion in August of 1998, the presiding judge was re-assigned to Durango, a remote rural town. During the appeals process, Immigration authorities stated publicly that the lower court ruling broke with the tradition of dealing with immigration questions "administratively." During a hearing in January, one of the three judges stated in open court that she was under pressure from Immigration authorities to rule against Hansen.

"I plan to return to Mexico just as soon as possible," said Hansen.

Following is a statement released by Hansen shortly after his expulsion:

On February 18, 1998, at about 12:15 pm, two Mexican immigration officials confronted me outside of a store in the village of Altamirano in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. The officials escorted me to a private vehicle, under the pretense of confirming some immigration forms, and transported me to the immigration checkpoint at the entrance to Altamirano. There, four heavily armed men in street clothes forced me into a older model unmarked yellow car. When I asked them for identification they threatened to beat me and transport me in the trunk. They never provided identification. Because of the activity of death squads and the recent murder of 45 Indians in the area, at that point I was convinced that I would be killed. The constant
assurances that I would not be killed convinced me even more. They transported me to a Security Police encampment where I was surrounded by about 15 heavily armed men. I was denied access to a phone and denied a meeting with the commander of the base.
After about twenty minutes, a detachment of security police transported me to an immigration office in Comitan. I again asked to make a phone call and was denied access to the phone. I asked why I was being held and was told to shut up. I asked to contact the US Embassy and was denied. After about an hour I was transported by the security police to the immigration office in San Cristobal, where I arrived at about 3:30 pm. There I was subject to a three hour interrogation. I asked to have a lawyer
present and was denied. I asked to have access to a phone and was denied. During the interview US Embassy officials from Mexico City called several times requesting to talk with me and I was not permitted to talk to them. The interrogation consisted of questions about my personal finances, my relations with several communities in Chiapas, my activities in Chiapas during the past three years, and my work with the Chiapas Media Project. I was told that if I did not answer the questions I would be expelled from the country. During the interview, armed guards were present outside of the office. After a three hour interrogation, I was asked to sign the notes taken during the interrogation by the regional immigration director. He told me that if I did not sign the documents I would be expelled from the country. The document was prepared in Spanish, and although I didn't understand all of it, and in several cases I was quoted using Spanish words which I don't know, I signed it, at about 6:30 pm, in the face of these threats. I was then informed that I had to wait for a call from the US Embassy. At about 8:00 pm, without having received the call from the Embassy, I was rushed out of the office by two immigration officials. (I discovered later that US Embassy officials had called numerous times between 3:00 and 8:00 but always got a busy signal, even though I noted very little phone traffic during this time.) I was taken to Tuxtla Guttierez and put on a four seat plane owned by the Ministerio de Gobernacion and transported to Mexico City. I arrived in Mexico City at about midnight and was put in a jail run by the department of immigration. At the jail I was again denied access to a phone, lawyer and US Embassy personnel. The jail cell had a toilet which was overflowing and the floor of the room was covered in feces. The mattress and bedding were also covered in feces. I was locked in this room from midnight until 9:00 AM the next morning.

At 9:00 AM I was removed from the cell, fingerprinted, photographed and measured. I requested access to a phone and was given access. However, I didn't have my phone directory with me. I requested a Mexico City phone directory and was denied access. Five immigration officials then put me in a van and we drove slowly and aimlessly around Mexico City for about an hour in an apparent effort to kill time and keep me away from a telephone.

At about 10:30 we arrived at the Mexico City international airport and I was handed over to other immigration officials. I again requested access to a phone and was denied. I was informed that US Embassy officials would be meeting with me shortly and I was locked in a room guarded by an armed guard to wait. At about 11:00, two US Embassy officials arrived and informed me that they had been trying to locate me for the past 24 hours but had been given conflicting and untrue information concerning my whereabouts. For example, while I was being driven aimlessly around Mexico City, Embassy officials were informed by Mexican immigration officials that I was on a
flight from Tuxtla Guttierez to Mexico City. I spent about twenty minutes with the US Embassy officials. During that time I filed a formal complaint stating that my human rights had been violated by being detained for 24 hours without access to a telephone, legal assistance or the US Embassy.

Then four immigration officials arrived and informed me for the first time that I was to be deported from Mexico on a flight to Miami that was to depart at 11:40 AM. For the first time I was provided with information about why I had been detained under armed guard for 24 hours. I was handed a set of papers prepared by immigration officials declaring that I was to be deported because I attended a conference on culture and economics in Chiapas and because I had been an observer of the peace talks between the government and the EZLN. Both of these events occurred two years ago. According to these officials, my immigration status on these two occasions was not
consistent with my activities. Since those two occasions, I have visited Chiapas a dozen times under the same immigration status and had met with immigration officials on each trip without incident.

I discovered after I was expelled that an attorney in San Cristobal had filed an "amparo" in my name, making my detention and subsequent expulsion illegal under Mexican law. I also discovered that it is illegal to implement immigration laws retro-actively.