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Prisoner of Conscience

    July 08, 2015

    Chadian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against a human rights defender sentenced to two-year imprisonment for peacefully expressing his views on the country’s judicial system, Amnesty International said today.

    Djeralar Minkeol is a Chadian activist and Director of Association Ngaoubourandi (ASNGA), an organization that focuses on opposing land-grabbing, and oil production issues. He was sentenced yesterday after having been arrested without a warrant last month following a radio interview during which he condemned the corrupt practices of some judicial officers. He was charged with “insulting the judiciary” (outrage a magistrate) and the public prosecutor who ordered his arrest was one of the plaintiffs in the trial.

    “Djeralar Minkeol is a prisoner of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released with all charges against him dropped. This move to silence government critics shows how freedom of expression is still being severely and unduly restricted in Chad,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

    June 16, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs  GMT  17 June 2015

    Myanmar’s authorities are intensifying restrictions on media as the country approaches crucial national elections, scheduled to be held in November, using threats, harassment and imprisonment to stifle independent journalists and outlets, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

    Caught between state censorship and self-censorship: Prosecution and intimidation of media workers in Myanmar shows how, despite Myanmar’s much-touted “political opening” since 2011, authorities are relying on old and new methods to intimidate media and restrict freedom of expression. The clampdown has intensified over the past year – today at least 10 media workers are languishing in prison, all of them jailed in the last 12 months. All are prisoners of conscience.

    June 16, 2015

    By Sevag Kechichian, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International

    Today, like many people around the world, I waited to find out if Raif Badawi would again be hauled out of his prison cell and mercilessly lashed another 50 times in a public square in Jeddah.

    The same suspense has gripped people for 23 weeks since the first time this act of cruelty was inflicted on the imprisoned blogger on 9 January this year. That day, a crowd of onlookers gathered in the square immediately after Friday prayers to witness this hateful spectacle.

    While flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments are commonplace in Saudi Arabia, they are not necessarily carried out on Fridays and in public. There is often an air of secrecy even around the many beheadings and other executions in the country – which have seen a macabre spike since the beginning of this year.

    Amnesty International has campaigned for Raif’s release since his arrest in 2012. Since he was flogged, it joined more than a million activists, journalists and political leaders in calling for an end to the horror and for his immediate release.

    June 04, 2015
    Gao Yu journalist and prisoner of conscience

    By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee

    26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

    But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.

    When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.

    We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.

    April 29, 2015

    In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.

    These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.

    April 26, 2015

    Amnesty International Ireland Release

    Responding to the news of a further adjournment of the trial in Cairo of Ibrahim Halawa, Amnesty International today expressed its concern at the ongoing detention of the Irish teenager who is a prisoner of conscience. Following a hearing in Cairo the trial was further adjourned today until 6 June. An application for bail was also refused.

    Ibrahim Halawa and his three sisters were arrested on 18 August 2013 for taking part in a pro-democracy protest in Cairo. His sisters were released on bail after three months and allowed to return to Ireland. Ibrahim who was 17 years old at the time of his arrest, remains in prison and faces a lengthy sentence and possible death sentence if convicted of the charges laid against him.

    April 22, 2015

    The sentencing of a human rights lawyer and outspoken government opponent in Azerbaijan to seven and a half years in jail on forged charges shows the authorities’ desperate attempt to silence all critics ahead of the start of the European Games, said Amnesty International.

    Intigam Aliyev, head of the NGO Legal Education Society, was sentenced to seven and a half years on charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power.

    “Intigam Aliyev is the latest victim of a concerted campaign by authorities in Azerbaijan to sweep all of the country’s problems under the carpet as they prepare to host the largest European sports event in less than two months. The message is: Tell the world about our problems and you will be punished,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    “The only ‘crime’ Intigam Aliyev has committed is to defend the human rights of his fellow citizens. He should have never been jailed in the first place and must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

    April 16, 2015

    A letter from Samar Badawi to her imprisoned husband, the Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair. Samar is also the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.

    Words are not enough for me to express how proud I am of my husband. How deeply proud I am of the man who believed in me and my cause when I was imprisoned. As my lawyer, he defended me and never left me alone to face those who unjustly attempted to impose their patriarchal authority over me just because I am a woman who dared to speak up. Everyone turned their backs on me except for my husband who remained by my side until he had helped achieve justice for my cause.

    He has always been my rock whenever I felt weak, he was my strength and my source of motivation and inspiration.

    April 14, 2015

    The Russian authorities must remedy a gross injustice by immediately and unconditionally releasing environmentalist and prisoner of conscience Yevgeniy Vitishko, Amnesty International said ahead of his parole hearing tomorrow.

    Yevgeniy Vitishko of the NGO Environmental Watch on North Caucasus is serving a three-year sentence in a prison colony in Russia’s remote Tambov region. He was sent there in February 2014 after a string of trumped-up charges were brought against him in the run-up to the Sochi Winter Olympic Games.

    Amnesty International fears that he will be denied parole, and accordingly refused even conditional release, based on a litany of so-called “violations” he has been accused of committing in the penal colony. These include: giving an item of clothing to another prisoner who was cold; sitting on his bed at an unauthorized time; storing food in an unauthorized place; receiving correspondence from a lawyer without notifying the penal colony’s administration; and even having a “negligent attitude towards weeding tomatoes” as part of his compulsory labour.

    April 14, 2015

    By Ensaf Haidar, via The Washington Post

    On June 17, 2012, my husband, Raif Badawi, the father of my three children and my best friend, was arrested in Jiddah, Saudi Arabia. For nearly three years, as he has languished in prison, my family has been trapped in a nightmare.

    Raif is a man of principle and a respected activist in Saudi Arabia. In 2008, he started a blog where readers could openly discuss politics, religion and other social issues. But in Saudi Arabia, one can pay an unthinkable price simply for blogging. Raif was convicted of insulting Islam and violating the kingdom’s repressive information-technology laws.

    April 13, 2015

    “I was not jailed because I represented myself, but because I defended the oppressed in my country. Don’t forget me. But most importantly do not forget those I was defending.”

    Waleed Abu al-Khair, a human rights defender and lawyer for imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, is currently serving a 15 year sentence in addition to a fine of 200,000 Saudi Arabian riyals (approximately $67,000 CAD) and a 15-year travel ban. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience detained solely for his peaceful human rights work.

    April 10, 2015

    Today will be a nerve-wracking day for Mohamed Soltan, a 27-year-old US-Egyptian activist who has been languishing in Cairo’s notorious Tora Prison, where he has been on hunger strike for more than 14 months.

    The court sentenced his father, Salah Soltan, and 13 others to death on 16 March. Their sentences may be confirmed after consultation with the Grand Mufti.

    Tomorrow, Mohamed and 36 others will face the same court on charges including “funding the Rabaa al-Adawiya sit-in” – a mass protest in Cairo in August 2013 that was forcibly dispersed by security forces – and spreading “false information” to destabilize the security of Egypt. They are part of a group of 51 individuals arrested after the sit-in as part of a sweeping crackdown on supporters of Egypt’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi.

    Mohamed’s sister, Hanaa, is incredibly anxious about what the future might hold for her family. Below is a harrowing letter she wrote to her brother:

    Dear Mohamed,

    April 07, 2015

    By Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director at Amnesty Internationa. Follow Hassiba on Twitter @HassibaHS.

    For 600 days Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, a 27-year-old Egyptian photojournalist, has been holed up in a small cell in the infamous Tora prison. His crime: taking pictures of the violent dispersal of the Rabaa al-Adaweya sit-in in August 2013. He is one of dozens of Egyptian journalists arrested since former President Mohamed Morsi was ousted on 3 July 2013. Six have been killed since then.

    Here’s a harrowing letter that Mahmoud Abou Zeid sent from his cell:

    “My life changed forever on the morning of Wednesday 14 August 2013. I was taking pictures of people protesting on the streets of Cairo when police came and locked down the streets. Thousands of people were immediately arrested – not only Morsi supporters, but also dozens of people caught up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    March 19, 2015

    The release of two prisoners of conscience today is a positive move, but with 20 others behind bars, it is little more than a tokenistic gesture to appease critics in the run up to the European Games, said Amnesty International.

    Bashir Suleymanli and Orkhan Eyyubzade, both outspoken critics of President Ilham Aliyev and the Azerbaijani political regime, have been released today as part of the presidential pardon announced yesterday.    

    “This is heartening news, but what about other prisoners who are still behind bars in Azerbaijan for no real crime but criticising the regime? The Azeri authorities give with one hand and take with the other. Only two days ago, the Azerbaijani Court imprisoned the brother of an outspoken political opposition leader for six years on trumped up charges,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of the Europe and Central Asia team.

    March 18, 2015

    On the fourth anniversary of the arrests of 13 leading opposition activists and other prisoners of conscience in Bahrain, Amnesty International calls for their immediate and unconditional release and urges the authorities to ensure that the rights of all prisoners, including those held in Jaw prison, are fully respected.

    Four years ago, starting on 17 March 2011, security officers in Bahrain raided the houses of several opposition activists, took them to unknown locations and detained them incommunicado for several weeks. Amongst them were 13 opposition activists, ‘Ali al-‘Ekri, a medical doctor, and Mahdi ‘Issa Mahdi Abu Dheeb, the head of the Bahrain Teachers’ Association.

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