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Prisoner of Conscience

    September 28, 2015

    The international community must not be fooled by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s veneer of reform and empty promises, said Amnesty International ahead of a speech at the UN General Assembly in New York later today. 

    The widely publicized prisoner pardons have yet to be implemented fully. While two Al Jazeera journalists, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, and several prominent activists were among those released on 23 September, seven activists remain in detention despite supposedly being pardoned last week. 

    “Most of those pardoned by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi should never have been locked up in the first place because they were peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression and assembly. But given the authorities’ intolerance of peaceful dissent, the space vacated in prison cells by those freed in the pardon will be filled up again all too soon,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Director at Amnesty International. 

    August 31, 2015

    Narges Mohammadi has been in and out of prison for more than a decade for her support of human rights in Iran. Three months after her most recent imprisonment, she wrote this personal letter from jail on what it means to be apart from her children.



    I was not allowed to hold my son Ali and my daughter Kiana when they were born because of my poor health. I was only able to see them through the door of the hospital room. It seems as if their fate was to be apart from me from birth. When I held them for the first time, all the scars from the caesarean, the difficulties I had breathing, the fear of death and all the pain were forgotten. I had become a mother.


    August 21, 2015

    The prosecution of Ebrahim Sharif, a political activist detained after making a speech calling for reform in Bahrain, demonstrates the authorities’ dogged determination to quash dissent and curtail freedom of expression in the country, said Amnesty International ahead of the start of his trial on 24 August.

    Ebrahim Sharif, who is a former Secretary General of a secular political opposition party, the National Democratic Action Society (Wa’ad), was arrested in July 2015 after giving a speech at a public gathering to commemorate the death of Hussam al-Haddad, a 16-year-old boy who was shot dead by riot police in 2012.

    “Speaking freely is not a crime – the fact that Ebrahim Sharif is going on trial for giving a speech calling for reform is absurd. The Bahraini authorities are clearly punishing him merely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Middle East and North Africa Director.

    “This is yet another example of the Bahraini government attempting to quash the slightest sign of political. All the charges against him should be dropped.”

    August 20, 2015

    The harsh sentence upheld this evening against a prominent anti-slavery activist is a clear indication that Mauritania has no intention of letting up on its crackdown on human rights defenders, Amnesty International said today.

    An appeal court in the south-western town of Aleg has confirmed the two year sentence after convicting former presidential candidate Biram Ould Dah Ould Abeid, Brahim Bilal and Djiby Sow of membership in an unrecognized organization, taking part in an unauthorized assembly, failing to comply with police orders and resisting arrest.  

    “It is revolting that this unjust and harsh sentence has been upheld. All three of them have been detained solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights and are therefore prisoners of conscience who must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Alioune Tine, Amnesty International Regional Director for West and Central Africa.

    August 18, 2015

    The decision by an Egyptian court to refer the case of a photojournalist to a criminal court while extending his pre-trial detention, represents yet another hefty blow to human rights and the rule of law in the country, said Amnesty International. Mahmoud Abu Zeid, widely known as Shawkan, is among hundreds who have been held in pre-trial detention for more than two years across the country.

    “The decision to extend the detention of Shawkan until the criminal court sets a date for the trial, is disgraceful and a blatant violation of international human rights standards. It also contravenes the Egyptian constitution and national law which limits pre-trial detention to an already prolonged period of two years if the detainee is not sentenced within that period” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Program.

    “By arbitrarily detaining hundreds of people for lengthy periods pending trial, the Egyptian authorities are sending a clear message that they will stop at nothing to quash all signs of dissent – even flouting their own laws in the process.”

    August 18, 2015

    The Iranian authorities must end the farcical waiting game for the verdict in the case of Iranian-American journalist Jason Rezaian, and release him immediately and unconditionally, as he is a prisoner of conscience, Amnesty International said today.

    The call comes after a spokesperson for Iran's Judiciary said the charges against the Washington Post journalist - including espionage and “spreading propaganda against the system” – are not related to journalism. United Nations experts are among others around the world who have called on the Iranian authorities to release him.

    “After subjecting Jason Rezaian to nearly one year in pre-trial detention - over six of them in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer - it is a further affront to justice to keep him behind bars for even one more day. He had been working legally and openly as a journalist in Iran and his prosecution is clearly motivated by an attempt to crush independent reporting in the country,” said Said Boumedouha, Acting Program Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International.

    August 05, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT  6 August 2015

    The Chinese authorities must immediately ensure imprisoned journalist Gao Yu receives all necessary medical care, Amnesty International said, after her lawyer disclosed she is critically ill and is being denied appropriate treatment.

    In April, Gao Yu, 71, was sentenced to seven years in prison on the spurious charge of “disclosing state secrets". Amnesty International considers her a prisoner of conscience, solely imprisoned for challenging the views of the government.

    "The authorities are showing a callous disregard for Gao Yu’s health. Denial of medical care is a reckless way to achieve her silence,” said Roseann Rife, East Asia Research Director at Amnesty International.

    “Withholding medical treatment for activists in detention and prison in order to weaken or punish them is a tried and tested tactic. The Chinese authorities must immediately end this unlawful and inhumane practice.”

    The authorities have a history of denying appropriate medical care to detained and imprisoned human rights activists and government critics.

    August 04, 2015

    The brazen attack on leading human rights defender, Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, is part of a disturbing escalation of politically motivated violence in Burundi and authorities must act to calm the situation and bring those responsible to justice, said Amnesty International.

    Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, president of the Association for the Protection of Human Rights and Detained People (APRODH), was shot and injured by gunmen in Bujumbura on 3 August. The attack took place a day after the assassination of General Adolphe Nshimirimana, chief security advisor to the Presidency.

    “This brazen attack on Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a man who works tirelessly to protect the rights of others, is deeply shocking,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn and the Great Lakes.

    The Burundian authorities must act swiftly to reverse a growing climate of fear and violence by publicly calling for calm and bringing the attackers to justice.”

    July 30, 2015

    The release of at least 11 prisoners of conscience in a mass prisoner amnesty in Myanmar today is a step in the right direction, but authorities must immediately clear the country’s jails of the scores of peaceful activists who still remain behind bars, Amnesty International said.

    The Myanmar authorities today released 6,966 people as part of a Presidential prisoner amnesty. Among those freed are at least 11 men who Amnesty International has designated prisoners of conscience – including journalists, peaceful protesters and community leaders from the repressed Muslim Rohingya minority.

    “We are delighted that these 11 men can now walk free and return to their families, even if nothing can make up for the ordeal they have had to go through. But the fact remains that none of them should have been imprisoned in the first place,” said Rupert Abbott, Amnesty International’s Research Director for Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

    July 08, 2015

    Chadian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release and drop all charges against a human rights defender sentenced to two-year imprisonment for peacefully expressing his views on the country’s judicial system, Amnesty International said today.

    Djeralar Minkeol is a Chadian activist and Director of Association Ngaoubourandi (ASNGA), an organization that focuses on opposing land-grabbing, and oil production issues. He was sentenced yesterday after having been arrested without a warrant last month following a radio interview during which he condemned the corrupt practices of some judicial officers. He was charged with “insulting the judiciary” (outrage a magistrate) and the public prosecutor who ordered his arrest was one of the plaintiffs in the trial.

    “Djeralar Minkeol is a prisoner of conscience who must be immediately and unconditionally released with all charges against him dropped. This move to silence government critics shows how freedom of expression is still being severely and unduly restricted in Chad,” said Steve Cockburn, Amnesty International deputy regional director for West and Central Africa.

    June 16, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs  GMT  17 June 2015

    Myanmar’s authorities are intensifying restrictions on media as the country approaches crucial national elections, scheduled to be held in November, using threats, harassment and imprisonment to stifle independent journalists and outlets, Amnesty International said in a new briefing today.

    Caught between state censorship and self-censorship: Prosecution and intimidation of media workers in Myanmar shows how, despite Myanmar’s much-touted “political opening” since 2011, authorities are relying on old and new methods to intimidate media and restrict freedom of expression. The clampdown has intensified over the past year – today at least 10 media workers are languishing in prison, all of them jailed in the last 12 months. All are prisoners of conscience.

    June 16, 2015

    By Sevag Kechichian, Saudi Arabia Researcher at Amnesty International

    Today, like many people around the world, I waited to find out if Raif Badawi would again be hauled out of his prison cell and mercilessly lashed another 50 times in a public square in Jeddah.

    The same suspense has gripped people for 23 weeks since the first time this act of cruelty was inflicted on the imprisoned blogger on 9 January this year. That day, a crowd of onlookers gathered in the square immediately after Friday prayers to witness this hateful spectacle.

    While flogging and other cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments are commonplace in Saudi Arabia, they are not necessarily carried out on Fridays and in public. There is often an air of secrecy even around the many beheadings and other executions in the country – which have seen a macabre spike since the beginning of this year.

    Amnesty International has campaigned for Raif’s release since his arrest in 2012. Since he was flogged, it joined more than a million activists, journalists and political leaders in calling for an end to the horror and for his immediate release.

    June 04, 2015
    Gao Yu journalist and prisoner of conscience

    By William Nee, China Researcher at Amnesty International. On twitter @williamnee

    26 years have passed since the tragic days in 1989 when thousands of peaceful pro-democracy protesters were brutally repressed in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

    But even though the tanks have long left the city’s infamous square, President Xi Jinping, appears as determined to quash anyone perceived as challenging the Communist Party’s hegemony.

    When President Xi took office in late 2012, he declared power would be put “in a cage”, but it is the independently minded academics, journalists, lawyers, and rights activists that have been thrown in jail.

    We are witnessing one of the darkest periods for freedom of expression in China since the bloodshed of 1989.

    April 29, 2015

    In the lead up to World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, the parents of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste, who was recently released from prison in Egypt, remain concerned about his colleagues Baher Mohamed and Mohamed Fahmy.

    As we proudly watched our son Peter Greste finally speak outside the Tora fortress that had been his prison for more than a year, addressing an audience filled with politicians and journalists at the National Press Club in Canberra, our pride couldn’t help be tinged by the knowledge this freedom couldn’t be shared by his Al Jazeera colleagues, Mohamed and Baher.

    These welcoming faces felt a long way from June 2014, when Peter, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, the ‘Al Jazeera three’ as they’d become known, were sentenced to between seven and 10 years in prison on charges of broadcasting false news and aiding the now outlawed Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. This nightmare had followed their arrest on the 29th of December, 2013, for simply doing their jobs and was without a doubt the lowest point in the campaign to have all three released.

    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.


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