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Prisoner of Conscience

    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.

    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.

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