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Prisoner of Conscience

    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?

    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

     

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