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Prisoner of Conscience

    January 26, 2016

    The continued detention of Mahmoud Hussein, a 20-year-old student who has spent more than two years in jail without charge or trial as of today, is yet another appalling example of the ruthless and repressive tactics Egypt is resorting to in a bid to crush dissent, said Amnesty International.

    Under Egyptian law, the maximum time a person can be detained without being tried or sentenced is an already excessively long period of two years, for those facing accusations that could lead to life imprisonment or the death penalty. Mahmoud Hussein was arrested at the age of 18 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” t-shirt and a scarf with the logo of “25 January Revolution”. He has also been tortured in detention and forced to sign a “confession” by the National Security Agency.

    December 09, 2015

    Today’s conditional release of Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders, should be followed by immediately and unconditionally setting all prisoners of conscience free, Amnesty International said.  

    “This is a step in the right direction that will send a crucial message of hope on the eve of International Human Rights Day. It should open the door to unconditional freedom, not just for Leyla Yunus, but all prisoners of conscience in Azerbaijan,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “Azerbaijani authorities must now quash all charges against Leyla Yunus and her husband Arif and remove any conditions attached to her release.”

    Leyla and Arif Yunus were convicted on 13 August 2015 for “fraud” and other purported crimes related to their NGO work. They faced prison sentences of eight and seven-and-a-half years, respectively. Arif Yunus was released on medical grounds on 12 November.

    November 27, 2015
    Phyoe Phyoe Aung with husband Lin Htet Naing

    By Lin Htet Naing

    In March, Phyoe Phyoe Aung was locked up for helping to organize a student protest in Myanmar. After eight months in hiding, her husband Lin Htet Naing was also arrested in November. Before his arrest, he told us about his partner and their fight for justice.  

    My favourite day is April 11, 2007. It’s the day we fell in love. I love my wife because she is simple, honest and very kind to me. I think she loves me because I am a little bit bad :D. We just want a sweet home and a family together.

    I met her at a student book class in 2006. I thought she looked like a boy. And she wasn’t afraid of anyone. She was always debating with our classmates, and talking about why globalization is good.

    November 23, 2015

    A UN Working Group has determined that the Saudi Arabian authorities have arbitrarily detained nine peaceful activists in blatant violation of international law, in an Opinion that sets out damning evidence of Saudi Arabia’s utter disregard for human rights, said Amnesty International today.

    Amnesty International has repeatedly called for the immediate and unconditional release of all nine activists, whom it considers prisoners of conscience. They include six founding members of a key human rights organization, the Saudi Civil and Political Rights Association (ACPRA), as well as the imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, his lawyer and human rights defender Waleed Abu al-Khair, and Fadhel al-Manasif of the now disbanded Adala Center for Human Rights.

    “The UN Working Group’s Opinion leaves no shred of doubt - the Saudi Arabian authorities are consistently abusing the country’s vague laws to deprive human rights defenders and others of their liberty, and deny them their basic right to freedoms of expression, association and assembly,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    November 10, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  11 November 2015

    The continuing imprisonment of the jailed poet Mohammed al-‘Ajami, widely known as Ibn al-Dheeb, underscores the Qatari government’s shameful disregard for freedom of expression, said Amnesty International today in the run up to the fourth anniversary of his detention.

    The government arrested the well-known Qatari poet on 16 November 2011 for writing and reciting a poem deemed critical of Qatar’s ruling family. He is currently serving a 15-year prison sentence, confirmed after an unfair trial.

    “It is tragic and absurd that Mohammed al-‘Ajami has been languishing in prison for nearly four years simply for reciting a poem that did not incite any violence. His arbitrary imprisonment and ludicrous 15-year sentence are the shameful result of the Qatari authorities’ inability to tolerate criticism and their disregard for the right to freedom of expression,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    October 20, 2015

     The release of a Cuban graffiti artist who had been held in prison for nearly a year after he painted “Raúl” and “Fidel” on the backs of two pigs must herald a new approach to freedom of expression and dissent in the country, said Amnesty International.

    Danilo Maldonado Machado -- known as “El Sexto” -- was released, without any warning, from the Valle Grande prison, in the outskirts of Havana, earlier today.

    “Danilo’s release is great news but he should have never been jailed in the first place. Peacefully expressing an opinion is not a crime,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    “This long awaited positive move must open the door for much needed political reform in Cuba, where people are routinely harassed, arrested and thrown in jail on spurious charges for speaking their minds. This needs to change urgently if Cuba is serious about respecting human rights, including the rights of people opposing the Cuban government.”

    October 20, 2015

    The continued detention of prisoner of conscience, Luaty Beirão, is a shocking example of the lengths to which Angolan authorities will go to suppress dissent, Amnesty International said today as he marked one month on hunger strike protesting against his detention.

    The imprisoned activist and musician is believed to be in critical condition in Clinica Girassol private hospital in Luanda, where he was transferred to on 15 October 2015. Amnesty International is calling today for his immediate and unconditional release.

    “As Luaty enters his second month on hunger strike, we believe his health is now in critical condition and his life may be at risk. His original detention was an affront to freedom of expression and now the authorities seem intent on compounding this shocking injustice by keeping him in detention,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “All charges against Luaty, and his co-accused, must be dropped and he must be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    September 29, 2015

    A Cuban graffiti artist who has been unfairly held in prison for nearly a year after he painted “Raúl” and “Fidel” on the backs of two pigs has been named as a prisoner of conscience, said Amnesty International today as it called for his immediate release.

    Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as ‘El Sexto’, was accused of “disrespecting the leaders of the Revolution” and sent to prison after officers opened the taxi’s boot and found the two pigs. Danilo intended to release them in an art show on Christmas Day.

    “To jail an artist for painting a name on a pig is ludicrous. Cuban authorities are using any cowardly excuse to silence Danilo and send a message to others that any criticism of the government and its officials will not be tolerated,” said Carolina Jiménez, Americas Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International.

    September 28, 2015

    The international community must not be fooled by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s veneer of reform and empty promises, said Amnesty International ahead of a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York later today. 

    The widely publicized prisoner pardons have yet to be implemented fully. While two Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and several prominent activists were among those released on 23 September, seven activists remain in detention despite supposedly being pardoned last week. 

    “Most of those pardoned by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should never have been locked up in the first place because they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. But given the authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent, the space vacated in prison cells by those freed in the pardon will be filled up again all too soon,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. 

    August 31, 2015

    Narges Mohammadi has been in and out of prison for more than a decade for her support of human rights in Iran. Three months after her most recent imprisonment, she wrote this personal letter from jail on what it means to be apart from her children.



    I was not allowed to hold my son Ali and my daughter Kiana when they were born because of my poor health. I was only able to see them through the door of the hospital room. It seems as if their fate was to be apart from me from birth. When I held them for the first time, all the scars from the caesarean, the difficulties I had breathing, the fear of death and all the pain were forgotten. I had become a mother.


    August 21, 2015

    The prosecution of Ebrahim Sharif, a political activist detained after making a speech calling for reform in Bahrain, demonstrates the authorities’ dogged determination to quash dissent and curtail freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International ahead of the start of his trial on 24 August.

    Ebrahim Sharif, who is a former Secretary General of a secular political opposition party, the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was arrested in July 2015 after giving a speech at a public gathering to commemorate the death of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by riot police in 2012.

    “Speaking freely is not a crime – the fact that Ebrahim Sharif is going on trial for giving a speech calling for reform is absurd. The Bahraini authorities are clearly punishing him merely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “This is yet another example of the Bahraini government attempting to quash the slightest sign of political. All the charges against him should be dropped.”

    August 20, 2015

    The harsh sentence upheld this evening against a prominent anti-slavery activist is a clear indication that Mauritania has no intention of letting up on its crackdown on human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.

    An appeal court in the south-western town of Aleg has confirmed the two year sentence after convicting former presidential candidate Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, Brahim Bilal and Djiby Sow of membership in an unrecognized organization, taking part in an unauthorized assembly, failing to comply with police orders and resisting arrest.  

    “It is revolting that this unjust and harsh sentence has been upheld. All three of them have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights and are therefore prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    August 18, 2015

    The decision by an Egyptian court to refer the case of a photojournalist to a criminal court while extending his pre-trial detention, represents yet another hefty blow to human rights and the rule of law in the country, said Amnesty International. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is among hundreds who have been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years across the country.

    “The decision to extend the detention of Shawkan until the criminal court sets a date for the trial, is disgraceful and a blatant violation of international human rights standards. It also contravenes the Egyptian constitution and national law which limits pre-trial detention to an already prolonged period of two years if the detainee is not sentenced within that period” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “By arbitrarily detaining hundreds of people for lengthy periods pending trial, the Egyptian authorities are sending a clear message that they will stop at nothing to quash all signs of dissent – even flouting their own laws in the process.”

    August 18, 2015

    The Iranian authorities must end the farcical waiting game for the verdict in the case of Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, and release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

    The call comes after a spokesperson for Iran's Judiciary said the charges against the Washington Post journalist - including espionage and “spreading propaganda against the system” – are not related to journalism. United Nations experts are among others around the world who have called on the Iranian authorities to release him.

    “After subjecting Jason Rezaian to nearly one year in pre-trial detention - over six of them in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer - it is a further affront to justice to keep him behind bars for even one more day. He had been working legally and openly as a journalist in Iran and his prosecution is clearly motivated by an attempt to crush independent reporting in the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Program Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    August 05, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  6 August 2015

    The Chinese authorities must immediately ensure imprisoned journalist Gao Yu receives all necessary medical care, Amnesty International said, after her lawyer disclosed she is critically ill and is being denied appropriate treatment.

    In April, Gao Yu, 71, was sentenced to seven years in prison on the spurious charge of “disclosing state secrets". Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government.

    "The authorities are showing a callous disregard for Gao Yu’s health. Denial of medical care is a reckless way to achieve her silence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “Withholding medical treatment for activists in detention and prison in order to weaken or punish them is a tried and tested tactic. The Chinese authorities must immediately end this unlawful and inhumane practice.”

    The authorities have a history of denying appropriate medical care to detained and imprisoned human rights activists and government critics.


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