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Irish Rendition Activist to Attend Accountability Conference in North Carolina

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April 7, 2010

This week, as the ACLU welcomes our clients Professors Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan to the United States — scholars who, until recently, were barred from entering the country because of their criticism of U.S. policy and who will be speaking to audiences in New York today and tomorrow — we also celebrating the news of another almost-excluded scholar being granted permission to enter the country.

Dr. Edward Horgan is a well-known Irish activist who served as an Irish Defense Force officer for 22 years. He has also worked as the International Secretary of the Irish Peace and Neutrality Alliance, was a United Nations peacekeeper and an international election monitor in countries like Ghana, Armenia, Zimbabwe, East Timor and Ukraine. Dr. Horgan also happens to be an outspoken critic of the U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition, and cofounded an organization called Shannon Watch, which has documented the use of Shannon Airport in western Ireland as a stopover for U.S. rendition flights.

Dr. Horgan was set to speak at an important conference taking place this week at Duke University called “Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on extraordinary rendition at the state and regional level.” Organized by a coalition of human rights groups, including North Carolina Stop Torture Now, the conference will convene legal experts (including the ACLU’s very own Steven Watt), human rights activists, journalists, religious leaders, academics and health care professionals to explore how to push for accountability for extraordinary rendition in North Carolina locally and regionally in an effort to push for accountability on the federal level.

On March 15, a North Carolina News & Observer op-ed reported that the U.S. government revoked Dr. Horgan’s 10-year, multiple-entry visa without explanation, even though he had visited the United States just last year to see family and to attend the presidential inauguration. Like Professors Habib and Ramadan, it seemed that Dr. Horgan was being targeted because of his ideas; specifically, his strong criticism of torture, rendition, and arbitrary detention.

Several congressional offices in North Carolina and Massachusetts joined private groups and citizens across the country in protesting Dr. Horgan’s exclusion. In North Carolina, Reps. David Price and Mel Watt and Sen. Kay Hagan were helpful in making inquiries with the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. The balance appeared to tip, though, only when the Irish media began covering the story and when letters to the editor from Irish citizens started pouring in. In short, Dr. Horgan’s exclusion, like the ideological exclusion of Professors Habib and Ramadan, started to look like a potential PR disaster for the United States:

Today, just one day before his scheduled departure for the United States, Dr. Horgan finally learned that he would be granted a new U.S. visa after all. He’s packing his bags and heading for Shannon Airport — not to protest this time, but to board a plane bound for the U.S.

If you’re in Durham, North Carolina, this week, the “Weaving a Net of Accountability” conference — with the participation of Dr. Horgan and ACLU attorney Steven Watt — is taking place on Thursday, April 8, through Saturday, April 10, on the campus of Duke University.