Intag Solidarity Network: February 26, 2005 Events Report
We, the International Observers of the Intag Solidarity Network (ISN), are writing the following to report on events that occurred at the offices of Ascendant Exploration in Quito, Ecuador on February 25, 2005, between 11:00AM and 11:45AM. These events took place between Ms. Sylvia Seger, professor at the School for International Training, two International Observers of the ISN, Charles Carlin and Rebecca Heaton, and employees of Ascendant Exploration. What follows is an account of the events as witnessed by the observers.
Ms. Seger went to Ascendant’s offices to deliver a petition asking that Ascendant drop its libel lawsuit against Periódico Intag. We, the ISN International Observers, accompanied Ms. Seger with both a video and still camera for documentation. All three of us were invited into the office, and through the course of our visit, the situation escalated to the point where Ascendant employees verbally and physically harassed us and Ms. Seger, detained the three of us against our will, and seized our physical and intellectual private property.
After being invited into the office, we were led through the main office area and into a conference room. We waited a few minutes and then three Ascendant employees, two men and a woman, joined us. Ms. Seger introduced herself and the observers and explained the purpose of her visit. At that point, the tone of the meeting changed. Rather than proceeding with a discussion about the petition, the Ascendant employees pressed us for personal information.
One of the men handed Ms. Seger a blank piece of paper and asked her to sign it. In the spirit of cooperation, Ms. Seger printed and signed her name at the top of the paper and wrote the name of the Intag Solidarity Network below. We, the observers, did not sign. We are concerned about how Ascendant might use Ms. Seger’s signature on a blank piece of paper. Ms. Seger volunteered that she is a resident of Ecuador. They then inquired about the nationality and visa status of the observers in a threatening manner. During this time they took photos of all three of us.
Ms. Seger handed over the petition, but the Ascendant employees focused conversation on Mr. Carlin’s video camera and not the petition, the purpose of Ms. Seger’s visit. Throughout this conversation, tensions were escalating. We got up to leave. The Ascendant employees stood in the doorway of the conference room blocking our way. One employee attempted to grab Mr. Carlin’s video camera. Mr. Carlin protected the camera by covering it with his arms and turned away from the Ascendant employee. While the Ascendant employees raised their voices and demanded to watch the videotape, we moved into the main office area where approximately five other Ascendant employees were standing and watching us.
We walked toward the main door to leave. An Ascendant employee locked the door and stood in front of it. The other Ascendant employees circled around us and said, in loud voices, that we could not leave. We continually asked them to open the door and let us leave. These requests were ignored. After a few minutes, the building security officer arrived and an employee let him into the office. He took Ms. Seger’s cedula (her identification card) and left the office. He also ignored our requests to leave.
Several Ascendant employees repeatedly attempted to take away Mr. Carlin’s camera by force, grabbing both Mr. Carlin and his camera. Neither Ms. Seger nor the observers were physically violent or verbally aggressive at any time. Ms. Seger partially opened the door and placed her forearm in the doorway. Ascendant employees tried to force the door closed, trapping her arm between the door and the frame.
Ms. Seger maneuvered her way out of the office. After she left, they again locked and physically blocked the door to prevent us from leaving. We stood by the door, repeatedly asked to leave, and stated that we were being threatened and held against our will. We were surrounded by about eight Ascendant employees who were shouting at us. One female employee videotaped us making these statements while denying their validity. The Ascendant employees demanded Mr. Carlin’s videotape in loud and aggressive voices. Ms. Seger, from the other side of the door, told Mr. Carlin to give them the videotape so that they could leave. Mr. Carlin then told the Ascendant employees that he would give them the videotape when they opened the door. Again, they demanded the videotape and did not move away from the door. Mr. Carlin removed the videotape from his camera and held it in his hand. An Ascendant employee tightly grabbed the hand that Mr. Carlin’s was holding the tape in and demanded it. An Ascendant employee, who was outside of the office, opened the door and instructed the employees in the main office area, over their shouting, to let us leave. Mr. Carlin let go of the videotape and Ms. Seger and we left the building.