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British activist fights expulsion

A British religious activist is fighting an expulsion order from Peru's government for allegedly inciting unrest among indigenous peoples protesting against rainforest oil drilling.

Brother Paul McAuley, a 62-year-old lay activist with the La Salle Christian Brothers who has worked in Peru for 20 years, is appealing against the order with the backing of the Roman Catholic Church, indigenous and human rights groups.

"I'm very moved by the signs of solidarity and almost spontaneous activities being carried out," he said from Iquitos, capital of the jungle state of Loreto.

That support has included a protest rally in Iquitos and an online appeal via Twitter by outspoken US actress Q'orianka Kilcher, whose father is a Peruvian Indian.

Peru's government informed Mr McAuley on Friday that it was revoking his residency because he was engaged in activities "that put in risk the security of the state, public order and the national defence".

Peru's cabinet chief, Javier Velasquez, told reporters in Lima on Monday that Mr McAuley was being expelled because the government could not "accept that foreigners can continue furtively to stir up people to shatter democratic values".

Mr McAuley, who was given until Wednesday to leave the country, denies breaking any laws. He says he works closely with regional government officials on various projects and "can't imagine them sitting down with people who are breaking public order".

After moving to Iquitos from Lima a decade ago he founded a non-profit civic group, the Loreto Environmental Network, in 2004, that works on behalf of indigenous groups.

President Alan Garcia's government has since opened up the Amazon to unprecedented mining and oil exploration and drilling. It has done little to impede rampant logging that threatens the existence of indigenous groups, Mr McAuley and other environmentalists say.

In a letter to the Interior Ministry protesting against the expulsion order, London-based Amnesty International said it "appears to be one step further in a campaign of intimidation by the government against indigenous communities and human rights defenders who work with them".

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