Amnesty film: Pakistan’s National Film Centre staff ‘kept on line’

Image copyright AFP Image caption In 2010 Mr Kennedy was released after several weeks A filmmaker has accused the US Embassy in Islamabad of repeatedly hanging up on him while he was in the…

Amnesty film: Pakistan's National Film Centre staff 'kept on line'

Image copyright AFP Image caption In 2010 Mr Kennedy was released after several weeks

A filmmaker has accused the US Embassy in Islamabad of repeatedly hanging up on him while he was in the middle of an emotional plea for help.

Andrew Scott Kennedy said embassy staff in the Pakistani capital constantly interrupted his call to parliament’s human rights committee.

He said it was never explained why the embassy was hung up on – and explained no steps were taken to resolve the problem.

Mr Kennedy’s latest video pleading for help has been watched more than 2 million times.

From twitter account: “Warning if you are going to watch this we are getting all emotional! #RepealThe18” – https://t.co/1Ql3FnaMKf — Andrew Scott Kennedy (@ASpoonKennedy) October 8, 2018

Mockingly titled “Deleted”, the new video shows Mr Kennedy seated in front of a lectern and immediately on the first call.

“I’ve run out of words”, he says to two people in the back of the room, his voice cracking.

In a series of emails to BBC Urdu, he said embassy staff told him staff were on “their way to get me”.

By 4:30pm, he could no longer understand what he was being told, he says, and a man put his arm around him and asked him to stop speaking.

Mr Kennedy had received an urgent phone call from his wife, asking him to meet her at a mosque in the city.

“Initially, my mind was made up that the embassy was hung up on me because I was rude and showed disrespect for their staff,” he said.

“The more I’m explaining, the more I realise how much sense there is in what I’m saying.”

He said a letter had been sent to the embassy by his campaign asking for help with the way he was being treated.

The embassy’s staff were desperate for a reply by the next day, so were not rushing him along.

The response was that they could not afford it, he says.

Some embassy staff would suggest he answer emails, he said, while others questioned whether he really needed to come to their embassy in the first place.

Mr Kennedy said the situation had got worse in the four years since he came to prominence with an emotional video in 2010.

“[My documentary] Extreme Love”, produced by Al Jazeera and commissioned by Amnesty International, used footage from an apparent rape in a vigilante attack on a girl in Swat.

An Afghan cameraman was shot dead when he returned to the scene, and a video distributed by groups supporting the Taliban labelled the footage an “illegal action” and “fake”.

That video led to the arrest of local journalist Abed Khan Chach, who was subsequently sentenced to one year in prison for theft.

In an email, the Amnesty Australia board said he had been sentenced by a “violent, abusive” and “hypocritical” court.

Mr Kennedy said there was something “funny” about the three senior members of Amnesty International having “more respect for the Taliban than they do for an Australian citizen”.

He said there was nothing the filmmakers could do to reverse the sentence, and the Afghan mission to support him was largely over.

The case triggered one of Amnesty International’s largest protests outside the Pakistani embassy in London in 2010.

The protest also followed comments by the non-governmental organisation’s secretary general Salil Shetty about Mr Chach’s court proceedings, in which he expressed dismay and support for Mr Kennedy.

The activist pointed out that despite his convictions, Mr Chach would not be deported to Afghanistan.

Mr Shetty was also quoted as having condemned, “the increasing toll of violence against journalists and for that matter all those who hold differing opinions from those who rule”.

Mr Chach was subsequently released on bail after a four-month detention, according to Amnesty International.

Mr Kennedy’s latest video was uploaded to his Facebook account in the hope that it would get around the embassy’s privacy settings and “get the word out”.

His campaign to “repeal the 18” – a reference to the amendments to the Pakistan Penal Code used in the Swat case – is still ongoing.

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