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Prisoner of Conscience

    May 04, 2016

    The Kyrgyzstani authorities should without delay release and compensate prisoner of conscience Azimjan Askarov as ruled by the UN Human Rights Committee.  The Committee also ruled that his conviction should be quashed.

    Human rights defender Azimjan Askarov was sentenced to life imprisonment in September 2010 following a trial that did not meet international fair trial standards. Azimjan Askarov also reported that he was tortured while in police custody.

    Azimjan Askarov was accused of being an accomplice to the murder of a police officer during several days of violence that took place in southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. Amnesty International believes that the charges against him were fabricated and politically motivated in an attempt to stop his legitimate human rights work. Azimjan Askarov is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for exercising his right to freedom of expression.

    May 04, 2016

    The release of Iranian artist and activist Atena Farghadani yesterday is a long-overdue step towards righting the injustice against her and must be followed by the immediate and unconditional release of other peaceful artists and activists who remain behind bars, Amnesty International said today.

    “Atena Farghadani’s release represents a legal and moral victory for her and encourages the efforts of activists worldwide to campaign for the release of other prisoners of conscience in Iran, as well as for reforms to the unjust laws used to put them behind bars in the first place,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.

    “While this is a time for celebration, it is vital that the world doesn’t forget that Atena Farghadani should never have been imprisoned in the first place and that many others like her continue to languish in cells or have the threat of prison hanging over their head for peacefully exercising their rights.”

    April 14, 2016

    The conviction of prominent lawyer and human rights activist Haris Ibrahim of sedition highlights Malaysia's increasing determination to crush any form of dissent in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    “Today’s conviction of human rights activist Haris Ibrahim is the latest travesty in a series of politically motivated actions to silence dissent in Malaysia. The Malaysian government must halt its prosecution of human rights defenders who have called for peaceful protests and electoral reforms. If imprisoned, Amnesty International would consider Ibrahim a Prisoner of Conscience,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Director of Campaigns for South-East Asia.

    March 29, 2016

     The guilty verdict and sentences of jail term handed down to 17 activists on 28 March 2016 by the Luanda Provincial Tribunal are an affront to justice that must be reversed, said Amnesty International as it called for their immediate and unconditional release as Prisoners of Conscience.

    The activists were condemned to jail terms ranging from two years to eight years and six months.

    The organisation also believes that the court’s decision for each of the 17 activists to cover legal costs of approximately 315 US Dollars is a mockery of justice.

    “Today’s unjustifiable conviction and draconian sentences against these peaceful activists who should never have been detained at all demonstrate how Angolan authorities use the criminal justice system to silence dissenting views. This ruling flies in the face of justice,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for Southern Africa.

    “The activists have been wrongly convicted in a deeply politicized trial. They are the victims of a government determined to intimidate anyone who dares to question its repressive policies.”

    March 28, 2016

    The Azerbaijani authorities today released prominent human rights lawyer Intigam Aliyev in what Amnesty International billed an overdue step towards righting the injustice against him and all remaining prisoners of conscience.

    Intigam Aliyev, head of the NGO Legal Education Society and a vocal government critic, was arrested in August 2014. In April 2015 he was sentenced to seven and a half years in prison on trumped-up charges of tax avoidance, illegal entrepreneurship and abuse of power, amid a crackdown on dissident voices in Azerbaijan. Authorities also raided and closed his NGO that helped victims of politically motivated persecution and represented them at the European Court of Human Rights.

    “Prisoner of conscience Intigam Aliyev has paid dearly for his frontline human rights work – the only ‘crime’ he committed was to defend his fellow citizens’ freedoms,” said Denis Krivosheev, Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International.

    March 22, 2016

    Egypt’s authorities must expedite the release of a 20-year-old prisoner of conscience who has spent more than two years in pre-trial detention in a case of outrageous injustice, said Amnesty International after a court ordered his release on bail today.

    Mahmoud Hussein was arrested on 25 January 2014 for wearing a “Nation Without Torture” T-shirt, and a scarf with a logo of the “25 January Revolution”. He was accused of belonging to a banned group and attending an unauthorised protest, amongst other things.

    “While the court’s decision comes as a huge relief for Mahmoud Hussein and his family, it should not overshadow the outrageous injustice he has suffered. He is a prisoner of conscience who should never have been jailed in the first place. The Egyptian authorities must now drop all charges against him,” said Magdalena Mughrabi, interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    March 17, 2016

    Azerbaijan’s embattled civil society received a rare glimmer of hope today as President Ilham Aliyev signed a decree ordering the release of 148 prisoners, including 10 prisoners of conscience, said Amnesty International.

    The move came just hours after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Azerbaijan’s detention of one of those released – human rights defender Rasul Jafarov – violated international law.

    “The release of 10 prisoners of conscience is always good news, but celebrations should be muted by the fact that at least eight still remain behind bars. While this is a welcome development, praise for the Azerbaijani authorities should be reserved for when all those unjustly imprisoned are released and the squeeze on civil society ends,” said Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    March 14, 2016

    Bahraini authorities must immediately release human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja, who was arrested and taken into custody today along with her baby son Hadi, Amnesty International said.

    “Zainab Al-Khawaja and her family have been relentlessly targeted by Bahraini authorities for speaking out against human rights violations,” said James Lynch, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “Her convictions are for nothing more than tearing up photos and seeking to visit her father in prison. If this arrest means the start of her prison sentence, she will be a prisoner of conscience, jailed solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.”

    15 police jeeps arrived at Zainab Al-Khawaja’s home this afternoon to arrest her, closing down the entire street, according to her sister Maryam Al-Khawaja.

    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.”

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