June 9, 2015 / 7:30 AM / in 2 years

Greenpeace says India denies entry to Australian activist

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Environmental group Greenpeace on Monday said India had barred an Australian staff member who had valid travel documents, a move it called part of a wider crackdown on the group, which is embroiled in a legal battle with the government.

Aaron Gray-Block was on his way to attend a meeting in India when immigration officials stopped him at the airport in the southern city of Bengaluru and put him on a flight to Kuala Lumpur without explanation, Greenpeace said in a statement.

“We are forced to wonder if all international staff of Greenpeace will now be prevented from entering the country?” said Divya Raghunandan, program director of Greenpeace India.

A senior official of the Indian home ministry, who declined to be identified as he is not authorized to speak on the record, said the ministry would question the immigration officials to learn why they blocked entry.

The federal government refused entry to Greenpeace staff even after the Delhi High Court allowed the group to gather domestic donations and use some bank accounts frozen by the home ministry.

In April the home ministry blocked foreign funds in seven Greenpeace bank accounts, saying the group had misreported foreign funds and spent unaccounted money to obstruct developmental projects.

Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi swept to power his right-wing nationalist government has tightened surveillance on foreign-funded charities.

It says some international charities violated the law by not disclosing details of donations, or used overseas money to fund “anti-national” activities.

Greenpeace workers, who have campaigned against coal mines in forests, genetically modified crops, nuclear power and toxic waste management, say their activism does not hurt the economy and they are determined to continue.

Previously, Greenpeace India activist Priya Pillai was prevented from traveling to London to voice her concerns against a project run by a multinational coal company in eastern India.

Reporting by Rupam Jain Nair; Editing by Douglas Busvine

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