CHR chair held for 6 hours at Malaysia airport on arriving for democracy forum

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CHR chairman Chito Gascon listens to lumad at UP Dilliman. (photo by Bernard Testa, InterAksyon)

MANILA, Philippines — Commission on Human Rights chairman Jose Luis Martin “Chito” Gascon said Saturday he had been denied entry for six hours at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport as he arrived in Malaysia Friday to speak at a regional conference on democracy issues in Southeast Asia.

Gascon said he had been “invited to speak at a regional conference hosted by the Kofi Annan Foundation and SUHAKAM (our counterpart, Malaysia’s CHR).”

Maria Chin Abdullah, chair of Malaysian organization Gabungan Pilihanraya Bersih dan Adil (The Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections), or “Bersih” (clean) for short, posted about the hold-up, saying immigration authorities cited Gascon’s supposed attendance at an “illegal assembly” by the group.

In her post, Abdullah said Gascon did attend an event organized by Bersih last year when the organization received a human rights award from the May Foundation, stressing that it was not illegal.

“When I got to (the) immigration counter, I was initially denied entry,” Gascon told InterAksyon Saturday in response to a request for confirmation of the incident sent through social media.

“I was not detained … so I was able to move around the airport while the local hosts sorted it out,” he added.

The CHR chair arrived at the Kulala Lumpur airport around 5:30 p.m.

“After six hours I was allowed entry once SUHAKAM sorted it out … (the) conference began this morning and I have been here from the start,” he added.

Gascon called the incident a “minor matter/distraction.”