A Canadian mining industry watchdog is taking the Peruvian government on in court over what it calls the "illegal and arbitrary" detention of one of its staff members last month.

On April 21, police and migration officials detained MiningWatch Canada's Jen Moore for four hours in the southeastern city of Cusco, along with American journalist and filmmaker John Dougherty. Moore is the advocacy group's Latin America program coordinator, a former journalist, and fluent Spanish speaker.

More than a dozen officers put the pair in custody. Officers alleged that Moore and Dougherty violated restrictions on their tourist visas. For six days, they had toured communities in Peru, screening Dougherty's documentary on a Canadian mining company that operates in Peru, and distributing free DVD copies.

Their tour was cut short however, and by the time they left Peru on April 22, they stood accused by the Peruvian government of violating public and domestic order. An interior ministry statement, published in Spanish, also stated that Hudbay Minerals Inc., the Toronto-based mining company and subject of Dougherty's documentary, operates in Peru with permits from the government.

"Even before their illegal and arbitrary detention, Moore and Dougherty were harassed and subjected to constant police surveillance," says a press statement by MiningWatch Canada on the legal action filed May 17 in Peru.

"The Interior Ministry made clear the political nature of the detention by issuing a public notice within hours (of their detention), declaring the two guilty of inciting violence and stating that expulsion would be a fitting sanction, while expressing explicit support for Hudbay’s operations."

The Ottawa-based NGO has now filed a motion for habeas corpus in Peruvian court, arguing that Moore and Dougherty's detention was illegal, and the Peruvian investigation into their migration status should be permanently shelved. The motion was filed against the Peruvian interior ministry, the Security Department in Cusco, and migration authorities in Cusco.

MiningWatch Canada will be legally represented in Peru by the Institute for Legal Defence, Human Rights Without Borders, Cooperacción, and the Association for Life and Human Dignity.

“At its core, this process of criminalization aims to cut off the communities living near Hudbay’s copper mine in Cusco from independent information and international solidarity today and in the future,” said Moore, safely back in Canada, in a press release.

“It is a terrible precedent for many others who work to share their research, their journalism, and their experience of all sorts – technical and personal – with mining-affected communities and the broader population in Peru. We cannot let this go unchallenged.”

Hudbay Minerals Inc., based in Toronto, owns the $2.3-billion Constancia copper mine in the southern Peruvian province of Chumbivilcas — an operation supported and regulated by the Peruvian government. The company has signed land-use agreements with communities adjacent to the mine that include investments in health, education and social development, but nearby residents have started to protest as many of these promises remain unfulfilled.