A former campaign worker has sued a progressive Democratic challenger to Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher, accusing him of making unwanted sexual advances toward her after she complained about another staffer sexually harassing female campaign workers.
The lawsuit accuses Pervez Agwan of assault, battery and false imprisonment.
Agwan, contacted Monday by the Houston Landing, issued a statement calling the lawsuit a “dishonest hit-job” and appeared to blame it on the national lobbying group American Israel Public Affairs Committee known as AIPAC.
“We are witnessing a politically motivated lawsuit that is part of an orchestrated smear campaign. These allegations are unequivocally false. Our campaign retained an independent party to do a thorough investigation many weeks back. There is no evidence to support any allegation in the lawsuit. This is a dishonest hit-job and we will fight tooth and nail against anyone attempting to derail our grassroots, people-powered campaign.”
The statement continues: “My campaign is the only campaign in the state of Texas that is directly taking on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). I will not back down against the dirty lobbies coming after our movement.”
Asked for evidence of the alleged smear campaign, Agwan texted links to news articles about his advocacy against the Israeli invasion of Gaza, adding “we are the only pro-Palestine congressional campaign in the state.” Agwan later reiterated that his campaign believes the lawsuit is a “smear and hit job” without providing additional information.
The lawsuit was filed in a Harris County state district court on Friday by former Agwan for Congress campaign worker Maha Chishtey, who is seeking up to $2 million in damages.
Agwan is running for the newly redrawn Texas 7th Congressional District, the seat currently occupied by Fletcher.
The lawsuit details an Oct. 17 encounter in which Chishtey says Agwan summoned her to campaign headquarters, where he was waiting for her alone. Chishtey alleges that following a long conversation, Agwan put his hands on her and attempted to kiss her, according to the lawsuit.
The suit states that when Chishtey declined Agwan’s advances, he prevented her from leaving the office. After “what seemed like an eternity,” Chishtey was allowed to leave the office and resigned from the campaign shortly after, according to the lawsuit.
AIPAC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawsuit alleges the Oct. 17 incident occurred two weeks after Chishtey complained to Agwan that the campaign’s organizing director, Angelo Perlera, had made inappropriate remarks and inappropriately touched young female campaign staffers.
I’m not in a position to assess any of the claims made here as yet. These are very serious charges, and I would like to take the time to process this. What I will say for now is that I’m making my 2024 primary interview list, and I’ve had the CD07 contest on there since Agwan’s entry, so when we get there we’ll revisit the question. Until then, we’ll see what happens. The Chron has more.