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Prisoner of Conscience

    April 07, 2014

    A Cairo appeals court today upheld the conviction of three government critics for taking part in an “unauthorized” protest, a further sign that the Egyptian authorities are tightening the vice on freedom of expression and assembly, Amnesty International said.

    The defendants, Ahmed Maher and Mohamed Adel, both activists with the 6 April Youth Movement, and well-known blogger Ahmed Douma, are to serve three years in prison with labour and a 50,000 Egyptian pound (US$7,185) fine. The court also ruled they should serve three years’ probation following their release.

    “This appeals court ruling tightens the vice on freedom of expression and assembly and is yet another sign of Egypt’s growing climate of intolerance towards any legitimate criticism of the authorities,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International.

    “Repression goes unabated in Egypt. Those who were at the forefront of the 2011 uprising are now jailed for a mere peaceful protest. 

    March 18, 2014

    Today’s unlawful detention of a respected magazine editor and human rights lawyer for their criticism of the judiciary in Swaziland is another shocking example of the southern African kingdom’s intolerance of freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    Bhekithemba Makhubu, editor of Swaziland’s monthly news magazine The Nation and human rights lawyer Thulani Maseko are being held at Sidwashini Remand Prison in Mbabane, after highly irregular legal proceedings. They were arbitrarily arrested under defective warrants, denied access to their lawyers and remanded in custody after summary proceedings held behind closed doors.

    “These arbitrary arrests and highly irregular legal proceedings amount to judicial retribution rather than justice being delivered, and are further evidence of Swaziland’s intolerance of freedom of expression. It violates international human rights standards and has no basis in Swaziland’s domestic law,” said Mary Rayner, researcher on Swaziland at Amnesty International.

    March 14, 2014

    Azerbaijan should immediately and unconditionally release two political leaders who have been behind bars for more than a year on fabricated charges, Amnesty international said.

    On 17 March, the Shaki District Court is expected to announce the verdict against Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov – two prisoners of conscience who were arrested more than a year ago after they observed riots in the northern city of Ismayili.

    “The authorities in Azerbaijan seem to stop at nothing to crush dissent. All Tofig and Ilgar did was visit Ismayili to observe and report on these events. They are being punished simply as critics of the government,” said Denis Krivosheev, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Director at Amnesty International.

    Tofig Yagublu is an independent Azeri journalist and the deputy chair of the opposition Musavat party and Ilgar Mammadov is leader of the Azeri opposition group REAL. If convicted, Tofig Yagublu and Ilgar Mammadov face up to 12 years in prison.

    March 05, 2014

    Last night’s release of Jabeur Mejri, a prisoner of conscience who spent two years in prison for publishing online articles and cartoons deemed offensive to Islam, is long overdue and must be followed by the authorities quashing his sentence and conviction, said Amnesty International.

    The organization had campaigned heavily for his release, including as part of its annual Write for Rights campaign in December 2013.

    “Jabeur Mejri’s release is a huge relief for his family and a victory for all the activists who have campaigned on his behalf across the globe. Putting him behind bars for two years for the images he posted online was a travesty that risked crushing all hope of genuine progress on freedom of expression in post-Ben Ali Tunisia,” said Philip Luther, Director for the Middle East and North Africa at Amnesty International.

    March 03, 2014

    The authorities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) must immediately quash the conviction of a Qatari medical doctor who has been sentenced to seven years in jail today after a grossly unfair trial, said Amnesty International.

    Mahmoud Abdulrahman al-Jaidah was arrested more than a year ago over alleged links to the Muslim Brotherhood and faced torture and ill-treatment in detention. He was denied access to a lawyer while held in secret detention and given limited access to one during his trial, in flagrant violation of international fair trial standards. He has no right to appeal his sentence.

    “Today’s disgraceful sentencing of Mahmoud al-Jaidah is a farce and makes a mockery of the UAE’s claim to be a progressive country that respects human rights.  He was arrested without a warrant, blindfolded and flung into solitary confinement before being repeatedly tortured, ill-treated and forced to sign papers he wasn’t allowed to read,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    February 27, 2014

    Omid Kokabee was arrested at the airport as he was leaving Iran on January 30, 2011.  He was returning to his PhD studies in physics at the University of Texas. He was held for 15 months in pre-trial detention, before his trial in May 2012 on charges of “contact with hostile countries” and "receiving illicit payments”. The payments referred to a stipend he received from the University of Texas for his studies. His televised trial, alongside 12 others, was unfair. 

    No evidence against him was presented in court and he was not allowed to speak with his lawyer beforehand. 

    Omid Kokabee was held in solitary confinement, interrogated for long periods and pressured to make “confessions”. He says he was made to write down details of people he had seen in embassies or at conferences; his interrogators then accused some of those people of being CIA operatives.

    February 25, 2014

    Egypt’s armed forces must end the military trial of two journalists, release them immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against them, Amnesty International said as it named both men prisoners of conscience.

    Amr Al Qazaz and Islam Farahat are to appear before the North Cairo Misdemeanour Military Court on 26 February 2014, on charges of illegally obtaining and publishing classified military documents and videos – including interviews with Egypt’s Defence Minister Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. If convicted, both men could face up to three years in prison.

    “The two journalists are prisoners of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression by performing their jobs,” said Philip Luther, Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “The Egyptian authorities must release them immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against them. Journalism is not a crime, and civilians, including journalists, should never face trial in military courts.”

    In the submission prepared for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Iran in October-November 2014, Amnesty International noted the following concerns:
     

    Executions, including of juvenile offenders, carried out in violation of international standards for fair trial. Torture and other ill-treatment in detention centres continue to be committed with impunity, Violence against women and girls, Discrimination on grounds of sex, sexual orientation, ethnic identity or religious belief. Religious and ethnic minorities. Criminalization of Adult same-sex sexual conduct. Undue restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly, affecting in particular human rights defenders, trade unionists, women’s rights activists, journalists and student activists, Control of universities, including by limiting academic freedoms.

    Read the full report here

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