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Prisoner of Conscience

    December 16, 2014

    Authorities in India must build on the central government’s decision to decriminalize suicide by dropping all charges of attempted suicide against Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila and releasing her immediately and unconditionally, Amnesty International India said today.

    Irom Sharmila has been held in detention in Manipur for over 14 years on repeated charges of attempted suicide. She has been on a hunger strike since November 2000 demanding the repeal of the draconian Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA).

    On 10 December, India’s Minister of State for Home Affairs stated in the upper house of Parliament that the central government had decided to repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, which makes attempting to commit suicide punishable with imprisonment for up to one year.

    “The Indian government’s decision to decriminalize suicide is in line with an increasing global trend. This move should lead to the immediate release of Irom Sharmila, who has been held in detention merely for exercising her freedom of expression in a peaceful manner,” said Shailesh Rai, Program Director at Amnesty International India.

    December 04, 2014

    A court in Manama has today handed down a three-year prison sentence and a 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. US$8,000) fine to prominent activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, for allegedly “insulting the king” when she tore up a photograph of him in a court in October.

    She and her family have been continually targeted by the Bahraini authorities. Her father, Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, a leading human rights activist and prisoner of conscience, is currently serving a life sentence. Just three days ago, her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja, who is living in exile, was sentenced in absentia to one year in prison.

    “Tearing up a photo of the head of state should not be a criminal offence. Amnesty International is calling for this and all of Zainab Al-Khawaja’s other convictions to be quashed and all outstanding charges to be dropped,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    December 02, 2014

    An act of kindness transformed Liu Ping from a factory worker into a passionate anti-corruption activist in China. Her daughter, 22-year-old Liao Minyue, tells their story.

     

    Kind hearted

    My mother, Liu Ping, was just an ordinary Chinese woman with a kind heart.

    Liao Minyue's mother, Liu Ping, is in jail for trying to expose corruption in China © Private

    We were very close. I chose to live with her after my parents divorced about 10 years back. We never fought, not even once. We used to go to the markets to collect old and unwanted vegetables for food. It never once struck me as anything to be ashamed of. On the contrary, those were warm and intimate times, because we were together.

    October 30, 2014

    The Omani authorities must release a politician jailed for his involvement in an environmental protest, Amnesty International said after an appeal court upheld today.

    “The case against Talib al-Ma’amari appears to be politically motivated and based solely on his participation in a peaceful protest,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.

    “Al-Ma’amari is a prisoner of conscience – convicted for peacefully expressing his opinion and he faced an unfair trial that seemed destined to ensure that he remained in prison. He should be immediately and unconditionally released.”

    Talib al-Ma’amari, an elected member of the Sultanate of Oman’s Shoura Council, appears to have been imprisoned on charges of “undermining the status of the state” for taking part in a protest.

    He was detained in August last year after taking part in a protest near the Port of Sohar, Liwa province, against pollution and environmental degradation caused by a nearby industrial plant.

    October 27, 2014

    Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay (“peasant’s pipe”), was released from prison, having served four years of a 12-year prison sentence.

    His reportedly deteriorating health and the harsh prison conditions in Vietnam makes his release even more welcome.

    Immediately after his release he was taken to the airport and put on a plane, bound for the USA. Nguyen Van Hai’s sudden release shows how the passion and persistence of Amnesty International members can help in the struggle for human rights in Vietnam.

    He was jailed for writing an online blog that called for an end to injustice and corruption in Vietnam.  Amnesty International declared him a prisoner of conscience and campaigned tirelessly for four years demanding his release.

    Thank you to Amnesty supporters who took action on his case and helped us win his freedom!

    Read press release

     

    Read more Amnesty International Good News Stories

    October 22, 2014

    The release from prison of one of Viet Nam’s most high profile prisoners of conscience is a positive step, but authorities must now free the scores of other peaceful activists behind bars, said Amnesty International today.

    Nguyen Van Hai, better known by his pen name Dieu Cay (“peasant’s pipe”), was released from prison yesterday, having served four years of a 12-year prison sentence. Immediately after his release he was taken to the airport and put on a plane, eventually bound for the USA.

    A popular blogger on social justice issues, Dieu Cay was charged under the vaguely worded Article 88 of Viet Nam’s Penal Code for “conducting propaganda” against the state. He was sentenced to prison in September 2012 after an unfair trial.

    October 07, 2014

    An amnesty of thousands of prisoners in Myanmar is essentially an empty political gesture as scores of peaceful activists are believed to remain behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    The Myanmar authorities today announced that some 3,000 prisoners would be released in an amnesty, but none of the country’s prisoners of conscience – activists detained solely for peacefully expressing their views – appears to be included in the release.

    “This is nothing but an empty gesture on the authorities’ part. The timing, so close to the ASEAN summit in Myanmar in early November, smacks of political opportunism,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.

    “If the Myanmar authorities were genuine about improving respect for human rights, they would follow through on the long-standing promise to clear the country’s jails of the dozens of peaceful activists still behind bars.”

    September 23, 2014

    The life sentence handed down by a Chinese court to prominent Uighur academic Ilham Tohti on charges of “separatism” is an affront to justice, Amnesty International said.

    “This shameful judgement has no basis in reality. Ilham Tohti worked to peacefully build bridges between ethnic communities and for that he has been punished through politically motivated charges,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    “Tohti is a prisoner of conscience and the Chinese authorities must immediately and unconditionally release him.”

    Through his work as an academic and writer, Tohti has tried to build mutual understanding between Uighurs and Han Chinese in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), amid rising ethnic tensions in the region. He founded the website Uighur Online and is an outspoken critic of Beijing’s policies in the XUAR.

    Police arrested Tohti, along with seven Uighur students, in January this year.  He has been tortured in detention, was denied food for 10 days and shackled for more than 20 days.

    August 19, 2014

    A Manipur court ruling directing the release of Prisoner of Conscience Irom Sharmila because there were no grounds for charging her with attempted suicide is a legal and moral victory for the activist and her 13 year-long hunger strike, Amnesty International India said today.    
     
    The Manipur East Sessions Court ruled that authorities had failed to establish that Irom Sharmila had intended to commit suicide, and stated that her protest was a ‘political demand through a lawful means’.
     
    “This welcome but long overdue judgement recognizes that Irom Sharmila’s hunger strike is a powerful protest for human rights and a peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression,” said Shailesh Rai, Programmes Director at Amnesty International India.
     
    “Irom Sharmila should never have been arrested in the first place. All other charges against her of attempted suicide must be dropped and she must be immediately released. Authorities must instead pay attention to the issues this remarkable activist is raising.”
     

    August 12, 2014

    As news breaks that three judges have recused themselves from a mass court case in Egypt, Amnesty International remains concerned that show trials followed by mass death sentences are becoming a grim trade mark of Egyptian justice.

    Three judges who made up a Court Panel which was due to hear the case against 494 people today, have recused themselves on account of objections raised by the defendants' lawyers. The Cairo Appeal Court will schedule another criminal court panel at a later date. The majority of the defendants could face the death sentence in what amounts to little more than a pantomime the organization warns.

    The trial was in relation to protests that took place on 16 and 17 August 2013, in Ramsis, Cairo where at least 97 people died, most of them as a result of a reckless use of force by the security forces. Those charged include 12 minors, who were held in detention with adults, in direct contravention of Egyptian law.

    July 23, 2014

    An undocumented migrant who was arrested and tortured by the Mexican police and army is currently facing an unfair trial solely because of his ethnicity and should be released immediately and unconditionally, said Amnesty International today, as it named him a prisoner of conscience.

    In 2009 Ángel Amílcar Colón Quevedo, a member of the Afro-descent Garífuna community, was picked up by police in Tijuana, Mexico, as he attempted to travel from his home in Honduras to the United States. He has been detained since then, charged with being part of a criminal gang.

    “Ángel Colón’s detention and ongoing trial is purely based on his ethnicity, and as such is a travesty of justice. This is a man who has been tortured and severely mistreated. He must be released immediately and unconditionally”, said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    July 11, 2014

    The conviction against a peaceful Russian activist who was released from a closed psychiatric institution today must be overturned, Amnesty International said.

    Mikhail Kosenko was arrested after he took part in a protest in Moscow’s Bolotnaya Square in May 2012 and placed in custody a month later.

    “Mikhail Kosenko’s participation in the demonstration at Bolotnaya, and false accusations that he used violence, have been used as evidence against him which led to his incarceration. Kosenko’s only ‘crime’ was publicly expressing his believes. This is reminiscent of the Soviet-era tactics when the authorities used psychiatric treatment to silence dissenting voices,” said Sergei Nikitin, Amnesty International's Moscow Office Director.

    “The fact that Mikhail Kosenko’s conviction has not been overturned means he could be locked up again for any transgression, real or fabricated.”

    July 03, 2014

    Today’s court decision to acquit two Zambian men accused of having consensual sex with each other because the case had not been proved beyond reasonable doubt is the right decision for the wrong reasons, Amnesty International said today.

    “It is appalling that these men have spent over a year in prison awaiting trial charged with something which should not be a crime,” said Simeon Mawanza, Amnesty International’s Zambia researcher.

    “To imprison people on the basis of their real or perceived sexual orientation is unjust and a breach of international law. Amnesty International has always regarded these men to be prisoners of conscience.”

    James Mwape and Philip Mubiana, were freed today after having been held for over a year after being charged with having sex “against the order of nature”. The judge said that the state had not proven its case beyond reasonable doubt.   

    July 01, 2014

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 2 July 2014

    Nine peaceful government critics are believed to be suffering ill-treatment in an Abu Dhabi prison a year after a grossly unfair trial led to their incarceration, Amnesty International said as it called for their immediate and unconditional release.

    “The only reason these nine individuals are behind bars is because they dared to call for peaceful democratic reform, which seems off-limits in the UAE. They are prisoners of conscience and they must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    “World leaders must not prioritize business interests over human rights, by ignoring serious violations in the UAE. They should use their influence with the authorities to ensure all prisoners of conscience are released and their rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly are respected.”

    June 30, 2014

    The early release of Do Thi Minh Hanh, a woman labour activist and prisoner of conscience, in Viet Nam is a positive step but authorities must now follow up and release the scores of other peaceful activists still behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    Hanh, 28, was released on 26 June by Vietnamese authorities and arrived home yesterday. She had been imprisoned for seven years in 2010 for “conducting propaganda against the state”, after handing out leaflets in support of workers demanding better pay and conditions.

    “We are of course delighted that Do Thi Minh Hanh has been released, but she should never have been locked up in the first place. Sentencing someone to seven years in prison for handing out leaflets is ludicrous, and a sad indictment of the Vietnamese authorities’ long-lasting crackdown on dissent,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “The Vietnamese authorities must now follow up and immediately and unconditionally release all others who have been jailed for peacefully exercising their human rights.”

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