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    January 14, 2016

    Released 00:01 GMT Friday 15 January 2016 

    -        Top scholars call on Chinese government to respect academic freedom, in an open letter to President Xi Jinping on second anniversary of Uighur academic’s seizure

    Four hundred academics from across the world have called on China’s President Xi Jinping to immediately release Uighur Professor Ilham Tohti, on the second anniversary of the day he was taken into custody by authorities.

    In an open letter to President Xi, scholars from globally recognized academic institutions - including Harvard University, The University of Hong Kong, and the University of Oxford, among many others - write that the immediate and unconditional release of Professor Ilham Tohti would be “an important way of demonstrating China’s commitment to academic freedom”.

    January 14, 2016

    The grenade attack on the offices of ARY TV in Islamabad represents yet another strike against freedom of expression in Pakistan, underscoring the growing peril faced by media workers in the course of their work, Amnesty International said today.

    Two attackers riding a motorcycle threw a grenade and reportedly fired gunshots at the ARY TV offices late on Wednesday. A video editor at the station was injured by shrapnel from the blast.

    “This is the latest, depressing addition to a series of brazen attacks in which media workers in Pakistan have been targeted for doing their jobs,” said Champa Patel, Director of Amnesty International’s South Asia Regional Office.

    Pamphlets left at the scene said the attack had been carried out by Islamic State Wilayah Khurasan, an armed group that claims allegiance to the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS), in retaliation for ARY TV’s reporting of Pakistani military offensives.

    January 12, 2016

    The arrest of Samar Badawi, a prominent human rights defender, is the latest example of Saudi Arabia’s utter contempt for its human rights obligations and provides further damning proof of the authorities’ intent to suppress all signs of peaceful dissent, said Amnesty International.

    Read Samar Badawi's blog:  "My Husband is in Prison for Supporting Human Rights in Saudi Arabia"

    January 11, 2016

    A new cybercrimes law, which is due to take effect on 12 January 2016, will add a further layer to the web of laws that already restrict the right of people in Kuwait to freedom of expression and must be urgently reviewed, said Amnesty International today.

    The law includes criminalization of a range of online expression – in particular, criticism of the government, religious figureheads or foreign leaders. Dozens of people in Kuwait have already been arrested and prosecuted under other legislation for comments of this kind made on social media sites such as Twitter.

    “This repressive law is the latest, flawed strand in a tangled web of legislation that is designed to stifle free speech,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program.

    “Like anyone else in the world, Kuwaitis have a right to peacefully express their opinion, including by criticizing their own or other governments online without fear of imprisonment.”

    January 07, 2016

    Posted at 0001hrs  8 January 2016

    The human rights situation in Saudi Arabia has steadily deteriorated over the year since blogger Raif Badawi was publicly flogged for exercising his right to free expression, said Amnesty International the day before the first anniversary of the flogging.

    The past year has seen the Kingdom’s human rights record go from bad to worse. Most recently the mass execution of 47 people in a single day, including Shia Muslim cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, sent shockwaves across the region.

    Despite the much hailed participation of women in municipal elections last month, Saudi Arabia continued its sweeping crackdown on human rights activists and led a devastating air bombardment campaign in Yemen that saw the commission of serious violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes.

    December 23, 2015
    The Thai Supreme Court’s decision to uphold a guilty verdict against the director of an online news site sets an appalling precedent for freedom of expression - particularly online - in a climate where official contempt for free speech has hit new lows, Amnesty International said.   The Supreme Court today upheld the guilty 2012 verdict by the Court of First Instance against Chiranuch Premchaiporn, director of independent news site Prachatai (“Free People”), for not removing comments from the website which authorities characterised as insulting to the monarchy. Since the verdict in 2012, Prachatai has suspended its online forum.   The Supreme Court also upheld Chiranuch Premchaiporn’s punishment of a one-year suspended prison sentence and a fine of 30,000 Baht (USD830) under the Computer Crimes Act in May 2012, reduced to eight months’ imprisonment and a 20,000 Baht (USD550) for cooperation.  
    December 22, 2015

    The three year suspended prison sentence handed down against human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang is a deliberate attempt by the Chinese authorities to shackle a champion of freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    On Tuesday, a court in Beijing sentenced Pu Zhiqiang to three years in prison, suspended for three years, for “picking quarrels and provoking troubles” and “inciting ethnic hatred”. The conviction was primarily based on seven social media posts, in total approximately 600 characters, in which Pu criticized government officials and polices.

    “Clearly it is positive that Pu Zhiqiang is unlikely to spend another night in jail, yet that cannot hide the gross injustice against him. He is no criminal and this guilty verdict effectively shackles one of China’s bravest champions of human rights from practicing law,” said William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International.

    December 17, 2015

    Yesterday’s banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and association and should be immediately overturned, said Amnesty International.

    The District Administrative Court of Kyiv upheld the request of the Ukrainian Minister of Justice to ban the Communist Party. It will no longer be able to officially operate or participate in local elections.

    “The banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine sets a very dangerous precedent.  This move is propelling Ukraine backwards not forwards on its path to reform and greater respect for human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe and Central Asia.

    Under four new laws adopted in May 2015, collectively known as “decommunization” laws, displaying Communist or Nazi symbols can lead to criminal prosecution and up to ten years imprisonment. The use of the term “communist” is explicitly prohibited by this legislation. However, the Communist Party of Ukraine refused to make changes to its name, logo or its charter.

    December 16, 2015

    Authorities in Viet Nam must immediately and unconditionally release human rights lawyer Nguyễn Vãn Ðài, who has been detained on charges of “spreading propaganda against the state” shortly after the EU-Viet Nam Human Rights dialogue was held in the capital Ha Noi, Amnesty International said today.

    According to a statement by the Ministry of Public Security, Nguyễn Vãn Ðài was taken into police custody on Wednesday and charged under Article 88 of the Penal Code, which has frequently been used to imprison peaceful activists and human rights defenders. A search warrant was issued for his house in Ha Noi. The arrest comes a month before the once every five years National Congress of the Communist Party of Viet Nam which is often preceded by a crackdown on dissent.

    December 16, 2015

    Released 11:30am local time Kuwait / 08:30am GMT Wednesday 16 December 2015

    The Kuwaiti authorities have arrested, prosecuted and imprisoned scores of peaceful activists, including human rights defenders and political opponents, in their efforts to silence critics and punish dissent, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

    The ‘iron fist policy’: Criminalization of peaceful dissent in Kuwait, details the clampdown on freedom of expression in Kuwait since 2011, in the context of an overall deterioration of the human rights situation in the country, and highlights how the authorities are increasingly resorting to a multitude of restrictive laws to muzzle critical voices.

    “In the five years since a wave of popular protests swept across the Arab world we have witnessed a steady, relentless eroding of human rights in Kuwait as the authorities step up the clampdown on dissent. Scores of peaceful critics have been arrested and imprisoned simply for speaking out against a spectre of widespread repression,” said James Lynch, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2015

    Cuban human rights activists are at increased risk of detention or harassment from the authorities amid demonstrations on International Human Rights Day, 10 December, said Amnesty International following a wave of almost 1,500 arbitrary arrests in just over a month.

    Yesterday, police in the capital Havana arbitrarily restricted the movement of members of the prominent Ladies in White (Damas de Blanco) group of activists as they prepared for today’s demonstrations. This came after at least 1,477 politically motivated detentions in November 2015, the highest monthly total in many years, according to the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN).  

    “For weeks on end, the Cuban authorities have used a spike in arrests and harassment to prevent human rights activists and dissidents from protesting peacefully. This is a systematic problem that silences Cuban activists in their own streets. For years, harassment on Human Rights Day has been the rule rather than the exception, and is absolutely unacceptable,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

    December 10, 2015

    The Egyptian authorities’ continued detention of photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, exposes the rank hypocrisy behind their claim to uphold press freedom, Amnesty International said, ahead of the start of the photojournalist’s mass trial with 738 others on 12 December.

    In an open letter addressed to the Egyptian Public Prosecutor, the organization called for Mahmoud Abu Zeid to be released immediately and unconditionally, and for all charges against him to be dropped.

    “Mahmoud Abu Zeid is a prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years - 848 days - in pre-trial detention solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “This 28 year-old-man should be free, not languishing behind bars as his health deteriorates. His journalism is not a crime.”

    Mahmoud Abu Zeid is suffering from Hepatitis C and has been denied access to essential medication. His lawyers have appealed to the Public Prosecutor at least 17 times for his release on medical grounds, without success.

    December 09, 2015

    Thailand must stop using the lèse majesté law to criminalize freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today as the US Ambassador to the country faced a police investigation for alleged defamation of members of the Thai royal family.

    Glyn Davies has been accused of alleged lèse majesté offences over comments he made last month expressing concern at the lengthy jail sentences handed down to those convicted of breaking Thailand’s royal defamation law.

    “The authorities’ vicious application of the lèse majesté law has left dozens of individuals in jail for the peaceful exercise of their rights, with some facing military trials without the right of appeal,” said Audrey Gaughran, Amnesty International’s Senior Director of Research.

    “The fact that allegations of lèse majesté can be made for raising legitimate concerns highlight the current absurd extremes of Thailand’s restrictions on freedom of expression.”

    December 07, 2015

    The arrest of a group of 37 activists in Thailand ahead of a planned anti-corruption protest is the latest evidence that the country’s military government is using arbitrary powers of detention to silence peaceful activism, Amnesty International said today.

    The group of 36 students and a lawyer were detained on Monday morning while travelling by train to Rajabhakti Park in Hua Hin, central Thailand, to attend a demonstration against alleged military corruption.

    The authorities detached their train compartment en-route and forcibly removed some of the activists from the carriage before being taking them into custody.  All the activists were later released.

    “These heavy-handed and completely unjustifiable arrests highlight Thailand’s need to remove the military’s powers of arbitrary detention, which are being used to harass and criminalize peaceful dissent,” said Champa Patel, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific regional office director.

    December 07, 2015

    Russia’s jailing of a peaceful opposition activist for violating the country’s new law on public assemblies is a shocking and cynical attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said today.

    Ildar Dadin was sentenced to three years in jail by a Moscow court for repeated anti-government street protests. He is the first person to be jailed using the law, which was introduced in 2014 and punishes repeated breaches of public assembly rules.

    “The shocking sentencing of Ildar Dadin shows that the Russian authorities are using the law on public assemblies to fast-track peaceful protesters to prison,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

    “This cynical move shows that compared to the drawn out criminal proceedings against peaceful protesters in the past, the authorities have now created a shortcut for imprisoning activists. It is more dangerous to be a peaceful activist in Russia than at any time in recent years.”

    The recent changes to Russia’s draconian law on public assemblies criminalize anyone found to have violated the law more than twice within 180 days.

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