Maltese FME volunteer threatened with deportation following anti-war protest in Belgium
Maltese volunteer to be expelled from Belgium following protest against US military transport on its way to Iraq - Appeal negative!!
Brussels, Thursday February 6 2003 - This afternoon the Belgian Minister of Interior Antoine Duquesne gave an extension of stay to Maltese national John Axiak (19), a volunteer with For Mother Earth who received a warrant to leave the Schengen countries last Monday. The Maltese volunteer had participated in a non violent action against the war on Iraq. However, later in the afternoon the Belgian Immigration Department turned down the appeal. A new appeal to the high court will be filed soon.
Last Sundaynight February 2nd John Axiak joined the pacifist group of War Resistors International in an attempt to block a train with US military material which left Germany and was heading to Antwerp harbor where US military ships are heading for the Gulf. The police intervened before the action was completed and arrested everyone taking part in the action. Everybody has been released, although John Axiak received after his release orders to leave before midnight February 4th 2003 the Belgian territory and not enter into any of the Schengen countries.
This afternoon Green Member of Parliament Leen Laenens questioned the Belgian Interior Minister about the John Axiak case during the plenary in the Belgian parliament.
The MP also addressed the secrecy of the US military transports over Belgium territory to a war in Iraq which a large majority of Europeans do oppose.
The past days John Axiak rapidly attracted Belgian political support with senator Patrick Van Krunkelsven (Liberal Party) and MP's Peter Vanhoutte & Frans Lozie (Green Party) taking up his case. Therefore it was not a big surprise for the extension to be granted by the Minister. An extension is necessary so the appeal filed Tuesday by John Axiak could be heard. However, an hour after the Minister's response in Parliament John Axiak learned from the Immigration Department, part of the same Ministry of Interior, that the appeal was turned down. John Axiak has to leave Belgium.
John Axiak declared: "The non-violent action to stop a train with military hardware is completely justifiable. The Belgian government authorizes transportation of arms under a secret bilateral agreement which the Defence Department refused to release and discuss in parliament or by the government. Not opening such document for debate in parliament is a breach of democracy and has also to be addressed with non-violent actions of civil disobedience".
For Mother Earth and John Axiak have decided to take the case to a High Court which might take several months to decide on the matter. "The world once again stands upside down. People and military equipment which will wound & kill thousands of civilians receive secret and free passage through Belgium. This while a non-violent peaceworker is treated as a criminal and threatened with deportation" declared a spokesperson of For Mother Earth.
John Axiak plans to continue to volunteer his time with For Mother Earth in mobilising public and political support for disarmament, sustainable development and human rights. John is now working hard mobilising for Saturday 15th February 2002 which is scheduled to be a European wide day of peaceful protests against the US-led war on Iraq. Demonstrations are planned in many European countries, amongst which Belgium and Malta. More info http://www.motherearth.org/nowar/
John Axiak is taking part in an EVS project with For Mother Earth, an international environmental NGO based in Gent, Belgium. EVS is a voluntary program of the European commission. The project takes between six months to
a whole year. John started his project on the 15th December 2002, where he cooperates in information campaigns, office work and helps in an organic restaurant and info-centre on sustainable development. His wish is to continue the project till the end on 15th December 2003, unless he is
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