Latin America & Caribbean

British activist in Peru wins right to stay

Paul McAuley
Image caption Paul McAuley has the support of the indigenous population

A British religious activist in Peru has won the right to remain in the country while he fights an expulsion order.

The Peruvian government accuses Paul McAuley of inciting unrest among indigenous people protesting against environmental destruction.

He has appealed against the order.

The Catholic Church and indigenous and human rights groups are supporting his appeal.

A judge in Iquitos local court granted the staying order on what would have been his last day in Peru.

Brother Paul, who is with the De La Salle Brothers, has lived in Peru for 20 years and received an MBE for his educational work in the capital, Lima.

For the last decade he has worked with indigenous groups in Peru's vast Amazon region, where the current government has eased access for oil and gas companies.

Brother Paul says he teaches native Peruvians their environmental and human rights, the government in Lima accuses him of political agitation against the Peruvian state.

Cabinet chief Javier Velasquez said that Brother Paul was being expelled because the government could not "accept that foreigners can continue furtively to stir up people to shatter democratic values".

Resistance

Many oil and gas projects in the Amazon have met fierce resistance from indigenous groups.

Residents accuse the government of abusing their land rights and failing to consult them about big investment projects, the BBC's Peru correspondent Dan Collyns says.

Brother Paul has repeatedly said that oil exploration and logging are threatening to the indigenous population of the Amazon.

He admits that his work might lead to people asking for their rights.

"Education is often accused of inciting people to understand their rights, to be capable or organising themselves to ensure their human rights," Mr McAuley told the BBC.

"If that's a crime, then yes I'm guilty," he added. "As a member of a Catholic order, my life's been dedicated to human and Christian education."

Amnesty International said the expulsion order appeared "to be one step further in a campaign of intimidation by the government against indigenous communities and human rights defenders who work with them".

Hundreds of indigenous people have also demonstrated in support of Brother Paul in Iquitos in the Amazon state of Loreto.

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