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Prisoner of Conscience

    March 13, 2015

    The government of Azerbaijan must comply with international demands and immediately set free prominent opposition leader, Ilgar Mammadov, after the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe made a second call demanding his release, said Amnesty International. He was sentenced to seven years in jail on trumped up, politically-motivated charges more than a year ago.

    The Azerbaijani authorities have ignored several requests for Mammadov’s release by the Council of Europe following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that he had been arrested without any evidence and that the actual purpose of his detention had been to silence or punish him for criticising the government.

    “President Ilham Aliyev had the audacity to stand before the Council of Europe last year and declare that freedom of expression, association and assembly are assured in Azerbaijan. These have proven to be empty words as his government has continued to openly defy the European Court of Human Rights by refusing to release Ilgar Mammadov,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme.

    March 05, 2015

    Tomorrow marks eight weeks since the Saudi Arabian authorities publicly flogged the blogger and activist Raif Badawi, sentenced to 1,000 lashes and 10 years in prison for “insulting Islam” and founding an online forum for political debate.

    After his first session of 50 lashes in front of a mosque in Jeddah on 9 January, a doctor advised prison authorities that his wounds had not healed sufficiently for him to undergo the second round of this brutal punishment.

    The following Friday, while a medical committee had advised that Raif Badawi should not be flogged because of high blood pressure, another prison doctor insisted that there was nothing wrong with him and that he should be flogged. Then, for five consecutive weeks the Friday floggings were not carried out for reasons that remain unknown. It is anybody’s guess whether the next part of his sentence will be carried out tomorrow.

    Raif Badawi has made headlines around the world. But his case is just the tip of the iceberg for the Gulf Kingdom’s appalling human rights record. Here are 10 sobering facts from Amnesty International’s research:

    March 02, 2015

    Iranian prisoner of conscience and artist, Atena Farghadani, could be on death’s door after being hospitalized following a hunger strike lasting three weeks. Amnesty International is urging the Iranian authorities to release her immediately and unconditionally.

    According to her lawyer, the 28-year-old painter and activist was relocated from Gharchak Prison to a hospital on 26 February, after suffering a heart attack and briefly lost consciousness earlier this week. She stopped taking any food, sugar or salt on 9 February in protest at her continued detention and ill-treatment at Gharchak Prison in Varamin, 50 km south of Tehran, where she was being held with individuals convicted of serious crimes. In hospital she has refused an intravenous drip.
    “Atena should never have been imprisoned in the first place. Her repeated arbitrary arrest and detention for her artistic work is a flagrant assault on freedom of expression,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    February 23, 2015

    The Honourable Rob Nicholson
    Minister of Foreign Affairs
    125 Sussex Drive
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1A 0G2

    February 23, 2015

    Dear Minister Nicholson,

    We are writing this Open Letter with a request that you personally intervene on behalf of Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been sentenced to 1,000 lashes, a ten year prison term and other punishments simply because he believes in and has exercised his right to freedom of expression.

    We write further to similar requests we directed to former Minister Baird on 15 January and to Prime Minister Harper on 28 January. We have consistently called for action at the most senior levels of the Canadian government for several reasons.

    * There is a strong Canadian connection to Mr. Badawi’s case, by virtue of the fact that his wife Ensaf Haidar and their three young children have been granted refugee status and permanent residence in Canada and now reside in Sherbrooke, Quebec. 

    February 23, 2015

    A guilty verdict in Thailand today against two activists involved in a play deemed to have insulted the monarchy should be overturned immediately, and points to an ongoing crackdown on freedom of expression by the military government, Amnesty International said.

    A criminal court in Bangkok today found Patiwat Saraiyaem and Pornthip Munkong guilty of violating Thailand’s lèse-majesté law over their involvement in staging a play about a fictional monarch, “Wolf Bride”, at Thammasat University in October 2013. They were sentenced to two and half years in prison.

    The pair had pleaded guilty to the charges in December 2014. Both have been held in prison for more than six months already, having been denied bail on numerous occasions.

    February 17, 2015

    On 10 February 2015 Malaysia’s Federal Court, the highest court in the country,  upheld the decision of an appeal court to overturn opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on long-standing ‘sodomy’ charges, which date back to 2008, and sentenced him to five years in prison.

    Amnesty International believes this is a deplorable judgment, and the latest chapter in the Malaysian authorities’ relentless attempts to silence government critics. This oppressive ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.  The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim have always been politically motivated, and he should be released immediately.

    Anwar Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience – jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Anwar Ibrahim stated that he is innocent of the charge; that it is the result of a political conspiracy to stop his political career - and that he will never surrender.  

    February 06, 2015

    Amnesty International fears that most prisoners of conscience will likely be excluded from the royal pardon announced by King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud on 29 January, according to the Ministry of Interior’s pardon conditions.

    The royal pardon which referred to the conditions of the pardon stipulated in the Ministry of Interior’s official communication dated 27 January, a copy of which Amnesty International has seen, excludes “crimes related to state security” from the pardon. “Crimes related to state security” does not refer to clearly defined or codified articles in Saudi Arabian laws but to vaguely worded list of charges commonly faced by human rights activists and prisoners of conscience both in the Specialized Criminal Court (SCC), the country’s infamous security and counter-terror court, and in other criminal courts.

    January 26, 2015

    The health of a prisoner of conscience on hunger strike in Oman has deteriorated seriously, Amnesty International warned ahead of his imminent transfer to the capital Muscat for a court hearing. 

    Saeed Jaddad, a human rights activist jailed for his peaceful activism, was hospitalized on 23 January in the city of Salalah, two days after beginning a hunger strike following his arrest on 21 January. Police have ignored medical advice stating he is unfit to travel. 

    "The authorities in Oman are endangering the health and life of activist Saeed Jaddad, who should not be facing trial in the first place,” said Philip Luther, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. 

    “Rather than putting him at further risk by transferring him from Salalah to Muscat for a court trial, Saeed Jaddad should be released immediately and unconditionally.” 

    A doctor at the hospital in Salalah yesterday recommended that Saeed Jaddad should not be put back into police custody for transfer to Muscat because of his failing health.

    January 23, 2015

     By Sevag Kechichian, Researcher on Saudi Arabia at Amnesty International.

    The death of Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has, once again, focused international attention to the oil-rich Middle Eastern country’s human rights record.

    “What will be King Abdullah’s legacy?” everybody seems to be asking.

    The answer is not simple.  

    Since taking the throne in 2005, King Abdullah initiated some positive reforms.

    Women, for example, have slowly been included in the Shura Council, a powerless consultative body to advise the King, and incorporated into the workforce – with some being allowed to work in courts as lawyers.

    The late King is credited for opening a dozen new universities and providing thousands of Saudi Arabian citizens with generous scholarships to study abroad. He also initiated seemingly ambitious judicial reforms that have not really gone anywhere.  

    He even decreed the founding of a formal National Human Rights Commission and allowed the establishment of a supposedly independent human rights organization.

    But that’s where the good news ends.

    January 21, 2015

    Thousands of people have been forcibly evicted from on and around Boeung Kak lake in Phnom Penh since 2007, when the government leased their land to a company for development. © REUTERS/Samrang Pring

    Ten women housing rights defenders and a Buddhist monk, all jailed after short summary trials and some suffering from serious health issues, must be released immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty international said ahead of their appeal hearing tomorrow, 22 January.

    The 11 were arrested after two related peaceful protests in Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh in November last year.

    “These activists are victims of the Cambodian authorities’ relentless crackdown on peaceful protests – they should never have been prosecuted in the first place, let alone jailed,” said Janice Beanland, Amnesty International’s Campaigner on Cambodia.

    January 20, 2015

    The Bahraini authorities must quash the conviction of prominent human rights defender, Nabeel Rajab, who has today been sentenced to six months in prison for posting comments online which were considered insulting to the Ministries of Interior and Defence, Amnesty International said.

    “Nabeel Rajab is being unjustly punished simply for posting tweets deemed insulting to the authorities. His conviction is a blow to freedom of expression – it must be quashed. He should be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    Ahead of today’s verdict Nabeel Rajab told Amnesty International:

    “The unjust and relentless targeting of myself by the authorities provides just one example of what many other human rights defenders from across the Gulf region are subjected to. We are not only the victims of the repression of our own governments but also the victims of the silence, hypocrisy and double standards of the international community. Our people, who are hungry for freedom and social justice, are being forced to pay the price.”

    January 20, 2015

    The release of peaceful activist Dr Tun Aung, jailed simply for trying to prevent communal violence, is a positive step, but authorities in Myanmar should also free the dozens of other prisoners of conscience still behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    Dr Tun Aung, a Muslim community leader and medical doctor, was released from prison yesterday. He was first jailed in 2012 after trying to calm the crowd during a riot involving Buddhists and Rohingya in Rakhine State, western Myanmar, and was sentenced to up to 17 years’ imprisonment under various trumped-up charges.

    “This is a very welcome move by the authorities and we are delighted that Dr Tun Aung is finally free and will be reunited with his family. His release will come as encouragement for all of those inside and outside the country who campaigned for his freedom,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    “But he should never have been imprisoned in the first place – the charges against him were baseless and the trials he faced farcical.”

    January 19, 2015

    Guest writer: Verity Stevenson, in a special to the Globe and Mail
     

    Ensaf Haidar stood beside the kitchen table, urging her three children to eat. Newspapers featuring her husband’s face on the front were spread in the spaces between three pizza boxes, and a banner covering most of the wall showed him as well, with several dozen signatures of those who attended a #FreeRaif vigil in Montreal.
     

    January 17, 2015

    Béatrice Vaugrante, Director General of Amnistie Internationale Canada francophone, gives a snapshot of some of the widespread global campaigning for Raif Badawi. Raif has been sentenced to ten years and 1,000 lashes after starting a website for public debate in Saudi Arabia.

    When the vigil in Montreal ended, we were all frozen to the bone. It was a gorgeous day, but to motivate activists and supporters to stay outdoors for over an hour in -20 degree temperatures, you have to be creative.

    Motivating them to come in the first place wasn’t that hard – I could see the energy and the anger in their faces. They were outraged at what was happening to Raif Badawi, and they wanted to act. Another reason to attend: standing beside me, upright, silent and proud, small in stature but great in spirit, was Badawi’s wife, Ensaf Haidar, who has taken refuge in Quebec along with their three children. Together, we our determined to reunite this family.

    January 09, 2015

    An eyewitness account of the flogging today of Raif Badawi an activist in Saudi Arabia sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for setting up a website for public debate. The witness has not been named for security reasons.

    When the worshippers saw the police van outside the mosque, they knew someone would be flogged today.

    They gathered in a circle. Passers-by joined them and the crowd grew. But no one knew why the man brought forward was about to be punished. Is he a killer, they asked? A criminal? Does he not pray?

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