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Anti-NATO groups slam Portugal for barring activists

by Staff Writers
Lisbon (AFP) Nov 18, 2010
Anti-NATO groups slammed Portugal Thursday for barring entry to more than 100 activists as part of a heavy security operation imposed around a summit of NATO leaders.

Portugal has refused entry to at least 127 foreigners since tight border controls went up Monday midnight, authorities said, ahead of the summit starting Friday including US President Barack Obama.

Many passengers disembarking from aircraft faced extra security checks at Lisbon airport.

Hundreds of police closed off and secured streets surrounding a complex of white steel, concrete and canvas-roofed buildings at the shores of the River Tejo where the 28-nation NATO alliance leaders will meet.

A frigate patrolled the river nearby.

Security forces looked down with binoculars from the city's Vaso de Gama Tower.

The authorities aim to avoid a repeat of anarchist unrest that marred last year's NATO meeting in France.

Protests held on the eve of the Friday-Saturday have been peaceful. In one evening action, a "flash-mob" of about 100 activists fell to the city pavement like corpses as a air raid siren wailed.

Activists turned back by Portugal included a German national scheduled to address the anti-NATO International Counter Summit and two Spanish "peace activists", said organisers of a meeting opposing the NATO alliance.

German Lucas Wirl was refused entry at the Lisbon airport on Wednesday and had to return to Germany, International Coordinating Committee (ICC) spokesman Reiner Braun told a press conference.

A coach transporting about 35 Finnish pacifists was also barred at the border with Spain, as were two Spanish activists from the antimilitarist group MOC, added Andreas Speck, from War Resisters' International.

Speck said "all the people stopped are followers of nonviolence", with the Finns belonging to a group of conscientious objectors.

The ICC, which represents 650 groups from more than 30 countries, said Portugal was being anti-democratic.

"The ICC wants the government of Portugal to take back this prohibition immediately and to reestablish freedom of expression," it said in a statement.

Portugal says it has ramped up border controls between November 16 and 20 to "guarantee internal security and maintain public order" during the November 19-20 summit.

Of the 127 foreigners refused entry by midday Thursday, "about 70 were barred for reasons of public order and national security", a border official told AFP, without giving details.

The April 2009 summit in Strasbourg was marked by violent clashes between the security forces and extreme-left militants who looted shops and set alight several buildings including a hotel.

Portuguese authorities have not said on what grounds the activists were turned back except for a Spanish-Portuguese couple stopped on Tuesday and found to be in possession of knives and "anarchist anti-police pamphlets".

The International Counter Summit calls for "Getting Active for Global Peace, Disarmament and the End of NATO", according to its website, which says "NATO is a dinosaur that should be abolished."

Besides the meeting, a demonstration for peace is expected on Saturday in Lisbon called by 100 Portuguese unions.

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