Anti-drone activist's U.S. visa held up

Sept. 24, 2013 at 5:28 PM

WASHINGTON, Sept. 24 (UPI) -- An anti-drone activist said he's been denied a U.S. visa ahead of a planned trip to bring surviving victims of a strike in Pakistan to testify before Congress.

Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow with the British human rights group Reprieve and director of the Pakistani Foundation for Fundamental Rights, said he and three clients applied for visas to travel to the United States to offer testimony before a House committee investigating the Obama administration's policy on drone strikes, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Akbar said visas were approved for his three clients -- Rafiq Rehman, his 13-year-old son Zubair, and his 9-year-old daughter Nabila. The family survived an alleged U.S. drone strike in their village in North Waziristan, a Pakistani province on the border with Afghanistan, an area military officials have said is a terrorist hotbed.

Rehman's mother was killed in the attack, Akbar said.

He believes his visa was being held up for political reasons.

"It's not like my name is scratched because there is some sort of confusion. My name is blocked," Akbar told The Guardian. "Before I started drone investigations I never had an issue with [obtaining a] U.S. visa. In fact, I had a U.S. diplomatic visa for two years."

U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., invited Akbar and the Rehman family to testify before Congress and said the reason for Akbar's visa problem hasn't been explained to him.

"I don't know why the State Department has taken this action, but I think it's extremely important that when it comes to a national security matter like drone attacks, we hear not only from the proponents of these attacks, but also from the victims," Grayson said.

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