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Lawyers Rally at N.Y. Courthouse to Support Pakistan's AttorneysAbout 700 lawyers rallied Tuesday afternoon in front of New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to show support for lawyers and judges in Pakistan battling for the restoration of the rule of law. Addressing the throng that poured down the courthouse steps and spilled onto the sidewalk, Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, said the rally was called "to embolden" the Pakistani lawyers and judges who have been "physically manning barricades and trying to face down an entire army."
New York Law Journal2007-11-14 12:00:00 AM
About 700 lawyers rallied Tuesday afternoon in front of New York Supreme Court in Manhattan to show support for lawyers and judges in Pakistan battling for the restoration of the rule of law.
Addressing the throng that poured down the courthouse steps and spilled onto the sidewalk, Barry Kamins, president of the New York City Bar Association, said the rally was called "to embolden" the Pakistani lawyers and judges who have been "physically manning barricades and trying to face down an entire army."
Kathryn Madigan, president of the New York State Bar Association, also called for lawyers to speak "with one voice in defense of the rule of law" in Pakistan. And Catherine Christian, president of the New York County Lawyers' Association, said Pakistani lawyers "are showing the world what it means to be a lawyer -- fighting for liberty and an independent legal system."
The rally was held as the political crisis in Pakistan deepened.
Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto ruled out entering into a coalition government with Pakistan's president, General Perves Musharraf, and said her party is unlikely to participate in national elections in January. She also called on Musharraf to resign as both president and head of the army.
The crisis was precipitated on Nov. 3, when Musharraf suspended the constitution and replaced seven of the 11 justices on Pakistan's Supreme Court, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who refused to promise to abide by a "provisional constitution."
In declaring "emergency rule" shortly before the Pakistani Supreme Court was expected to rule on the legality of his re-election, Musharraf also banned protests and closed down independent TV stations.
According to press reports, thousands of lawyers protesting the imposition of emergency rule have been arrested and hundreds beaten.
In addition to being sponsored by the city and state bars and the county lawyers, Tuesday's rally was backed by the New York Women's Bar Association, the Muslim Bar Association of New York, the New York Council of Defense Lawyers and the New York State Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.
The deans of three area law schools -- CUNY's Michelle J. Anderson, Mary Daly of St. John's and Fordham's William Treanor -- attended the rally as did Brooklyn District Attorney Charles J. Hynes.
Separately, the New York City chapter of the National Lawyers Guild held a protest, attended by about 60 lawyers in front of the Pakistani Consulate on East 65th Street, according to Daniel Meyers, the chapter's president.
A delegation consisting of the leaders of three groups, all of which sponsored the rally at the consulate, was received by the top official there, Consul General Mohsin Razi, Meyers said.
In addition to Meyers, the delegation consisted of Touro Law School professor Eileen Kaufman, co-chairwoman of the Society of American Law Teachers, and Jeanne Mirer, secretary general of International Association of Democratic Lawyers. They called for an end to all measures imposed under emergency rule and the release of those who have been arrested.
The American Bar Association has called for lawyers to march around the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., and attend a rally on the courthouse steps Thursday.
At Tuesday's state Supreme Court rally, Ali Ahsan, whose father, Aitzaz Ahsan, is the president of the Pakistan's Supreme Court Bar, said that pushing Musharraf to restore "civil society and the rule of law" is critical to preventing Pakistan from falling into the hands of extremists.
Musharraf has cited the threat from extremists as justifications for his actions.
The elder Ahsan, who led a successful battle to restore Chaudhry to his post after a suspension this spring, has been detained in solitary confinement since the declaration of emergency rule, though he has been allowed visits from family members.
The younger Ahsan, a former associate at Cleary, Gottlieb, Steen & Hamilton who now works for the United Nations, told the rally that his contacts in Pakistan report that the military has been imprisoning bar group leaders by arresting them at their homes in addition to arresting lawyers attending protests.
A former president of the Pakistani Bar Association and two former presidents of the Supreme Court Bar Association are among those who have been arrested, he said. The three are in military custody, a situation far more perilous than his father's detention by civil authorities, Ahsan said.
Kamins, who took the lead in organizing Tuesday's rally, said the city bar had received an e-mail from the faculty and students at Lahore University expressing appreciation for the bar group's support.
In a statement forwarded with the e-mail, the students and faculty stated, "What Pakistan faces today is the subordination of every independent organ of state to unchecked and unaccountable military executive power."