There are still political prisoners today. Lest we forget, the Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial in cooperation with amnesty international draws attention to humans who are arrested for political reasons for the time being.
newspaper editor Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi
Libyan newspaper editor Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi has been detained incommunicado since 19 December 2012. He has been charged with defamation, as his newspaper published a list of judges it said were involved in corruption.
Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi, 67-year-old editor-in-chief of the Libyan daily newspaper Al-Umma is detained in Hudba Prison in the capital, Tripoli. He was arrested on 19 December 2012, the month after his newspaper published a list of 84 judges it said were involved in corruption. The newspaper had obtained the list from a source whose identity Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi has kept confidential.
On the day of his arrest, Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi had gone to a police station after he was summoned for questioning. He was transferred to the Public Prosecutor’s office and then Hudba Prison the same day. His detention was initially extended by eight days for interrogation but was then extended repeatedly, most recently until 11 March. The prosecution claimed they initiated an investigation into the newspaper’s license and registration. Neither his family nor his lawyers have been able to visit him in prison. His family are concerned, as he suffers from a number of health problems, including diabetes and hypertension.
Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s lawyer said that he had not been given access to his client’s file and had only been told that charges had been levelled against him in two separate cases, one relating to his newspaper’s registration and the other relating to charges of libel and offending the judicial institution. If he is convicted, he faces up to five years' imprisonment. Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi’s family are also concerned that he is not aware of the legal proceedings. His family say he has not appeared in court for either of the cases against him despite several sessions having already taken place. Most recently, a hearing date was set on 18 February at the Criminal Court in Tripoli but the prosecution apparently failed to inform the Hudba prison authorities and Amara Abdalla al-Khatabi did not attend the hearing; it was therefore postponed until 11 March.
Rashida Shams al-Din
An activist from Sudan’s youth movement Girifna, Rashida Shams al-Din, was arrested in the early morning of 24 June by security forces. She is being detained by the National Security Services (NSS) in an undisclosed location, without access to her family or a lawyer. She is at risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment.
Demonstrations in Sudan's Capital Khartoum © www.aixpaix.de
Twenty-eight-year old Rashida Shams al-Din lives in the Al-Shajara area of Khartoum and is a law student at the Open University of Sudan. She is a member of Girifna, a youth movement which has been involved in demonstrations criticizing the government, particularly in recent weeks.
Demonstrations broke out in Khartoum University on 17 June after President Omar al-Bashir announced that subsidies on fuel and basic food provisions would be lifted in response to the government’s fiscal crisis. The protests triggered a wider movement of daily demonstrations in Khartoum, its suburbs, and provincial capitals.
The authorities responded with excessive force. The police used batons, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets against peaceful protesters. In addition, the NSS embarked on a wide, systematic crackdown, arresting hundreds of individuals – not only demonstrators but also hundreds of opposition party members, youth activists, lawyers, journalists and NGO representatives.
In some cases, the detainees have been released without charge after a few hours. In others, they have been taken to unofficial places of detention where they have been tortured including beatings using fists, wooden sticks and metal bars. Individuals arrested for their involvement in demonstrations have also been charged with ‘troubling public order’ and sentenced to fines or lashing, which amounts to torture or other ill treatment or punishment.
Mid-July, a court in Moscow ruled that three members of the female punk group Pussy Riot must remain in pre-trial custody for six more months after members of the group sang a protest song in Moscow’s main Orthodox church in February.
Members of the Band „Pussy Riot", January 2012 © Игорь Мухин
Maria Alekhina, Ekaterina Samutsevich and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, who are accused of “hooliganism on the grounds of religious hatred”, face possible prison sentences of up to seven years. Preliminary hearings in the case have begun and the three have been ordered to remain in pre-trial custody until January 2013.
Amnesty considers the three women to be prisoners of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful expression of their beliefs, and is calling on the Russia authorities to immediately release the three women.
Several members of the punk group ‘Pussy Riot’, with their faces covered in balaclavas, sang a protest song titled “Virgin Mary, redeem us of Putin” in Moscow’s Christ the Saviour Cathedral on 21 February. The Russian authorities subsequently arrested Maria Alekhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova on 4 March and Ekaterina Samusevich on 15 March claiming they were the masked singers. Although the three women admit to being members of the larger ‘Pussy Riot’ group, they deny any involvement in the particular protest in the cathedral.
Photo: © Galena Lapinskaya
The three women are currently in pre-trial detention until 25 April. They have been charged with hooliganism under the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Article 213), which carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment.
In the song, the ‘Pussy Riot’ group criticizes the dedication and support shown by some representatives of the Orthodox Church to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. The song also calls on the Virgin Mary to become a feminist and banish Putin.
Amnesty International calls for the immediate and unconditional release of three young women arrested by the Russian authorities as their protest , if they took part in it, is protected by the right to freedom of expression, guaranteed in international human rights law.
Pastor Yousef Naderkhani
The 35-year-old Iranian Yousef Naderkhani is a Christian convert and pastor in an evangelical Church. He was sentenced to death in October 2010 after being convicted of apostasy. He was arrested in October 2009 following a protest he made to the local education authorities after discovering that his child was being forced to read from the Qur’an at school.
Photo: © Yousef Naderkhani
In June 2011, the Supreme Court of Iran ruled that a lower court should re-examine some procedural flaws in the case, with the power to decide whether to release, execute or retry Yousef Naderkhani. The verdict included a provision for the sentence to be overturned should he recant his Christian faith. Yousef Naderkhani was retried in September 2011 and refused to recant his religious beliefs. His lawyer told Amnesty International in February 2012 that the verdict is yet to be announced and the court is reported to have asked Ayatollah Khamenei for a religious ruling (fatwa) on the case.
Former lawyer Ni Yulan
Former lawyer and civil rights activist Ni Yulan was handed a two year and eight-month sentence for "picking quarrels and making trouble" and "fraud." Her husband, Dong Jiqin, has been jailed for two years for "picking quarrels and making trouble".
The 52-year-old Ni Yulan worked 18 years as a lawyer. She has campaigned against forced evictions and other housing rights violations in China. She has now been jailed three times.
Ni Yulan and her husband have been formally arrested on 7th April 2011 on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.
Photo: © private
Ni Yulan suffers from chronic health problems, partly as a result of previous torture at the hands of authorities. Her health worsened during her year-long detention. The lawyer has been in a wheelchair for the past decade after being beaten by police in detention in 2002.
When she was detained in 2002, her knee caps and feet were broken. Her injuries were so severe that she remains in a wheelchair. Ni Yulan and her husband are at risk of torture and other ill-treatment.
Political Opponent Mikail Khodorkovsky
Mikail Khodorkovsky, former chief of the oil company Yukos, has been arrested since 2003. Initially, the Oligarch has been sentenced to eight years imprisonment because of tax evasion and fraud in 2005. In a second lawsuit in 2010 a court in Moscow renewed his sentence for another seven years because of money laundering and conversion of funds to one's own use. At the moment, Khodorkowsky is arrested in a prison camp in Karelia.
According to international observers the russian entrepreneur has been arrested because of critical political remarks and the claim for democracy in Russia.
Khodorkovski 2001 © PressCenter of Khodorkovsky and Lebedev
Kohodorkovsky was one of the first entrepreneurs after the breakdown of the Sovjet Union who etablished capitalist structures. In the 1980s he worked for communist youth platform Komsomol, in 1989 he took over the Commercial Investment Bank. He became its director and changed the name to Menatep Bank. After that he etablished a contact to the government quickly. At the beginning of the 1990s he belonged to the consulting team of Boris Yelzin. His government realized privatizations within the petroleum-sector which made Khodorkovsky's enterprise buy the majority of the Yukos-shares. In 1996 he became director of the oil company. He etablished more transparency as well as a bookkeeping how it was practiced in the Western countries. Thus, Yukos became one of the leading oil-enterprise in Russia.
In the meantime Khodorkovsky started to interfere in politics. He paid much attention to the political circumstances in Russia and supported Yelzin as candidat for the presidency 1996. Later, he financed oppositional parties for the Duma election in 1999 and accused the Cremlin of corruption. After Putin was elected the Oligarch fall foul of the politcal elite very often - until he has been arrested in Novosibirsk in 2003. He was accused by then to have caused economic damage to the State.
In 2004 Khodorkovsky filed an appeal with the European Court of Human Rights because of intolerable conditions of the imprisonment. But nevertheless, he had to stay in prison and the assumption was reinforced that he is arrested because of political dissent.
To the upcoming presidential elections the former oil-entrepreneur called upon people not to vote for Putin but for an oppositional candidate.
Human rights activist Maximino García Catarino
On January 21st the human rights defender of the indigenous Na Savi was arrested by the police in the South-West of Mexico.
Maximino García Catarino is a member of the indigenous Organización para el Futuro del Pueblo Mixteco (OFPM). Public officers arrested him without warrant and without giving reasons.
He is accused to be complicited in a murder. According to a local NGO he refused to give information on other members of the Na Savi so that the police officers mistreated him.
The lawyers of Maximino García Catarino said that the police as well as the public prosecuter acted unconstitutionally because it took too long until Catarino was brought to a judge.
According to amnesty international there were several cases in which indigenous activists had to face made-up-accuses. They often have to spend years in prison because they are denied a proper lawsuit.
Human rights activist are suspended to repression very often in Mexico, especially if they denounce corruption or try to fight against local politicians.
Human rights activist Chen Xi
Last week the Chinese dissident Chen Youcai, also known as Chen Xi, has been arrested in China and was sentenced to 10 years of prison. Due to his wife Zhang Qunxuan, on 26th December 2011 a court in the south of China sentenced the fighter for freedom of speech and freedom of press because of "inciting subversion of the authority". Beside the prison sentence he has also lost his political rights for three years.
Chen Xi had written critical essays about the communist party and had published them mainly on the internet. Furthermore, he had been a member of the "Guizhon Human Rights Forum" which Chinese authorities declared without further ado for illegal.
Chen Xi is one of many dissidents that were arrested by Chinese authorities during the Christmas holidays. He has to serve one of the hardest convictions which was imposed lately.
The human rights activist has already been arrested for the third time. When he was protesting on Tiananmen Square in 1989 it was the first time he had been taken in custody. Later, as he was fighting for a peaceful opposition, he was sentenced to another imprisonment because of “counterrevolutionary crimes”.
After being released Chen Xi signed the Charta 08 which is for human rights in China. The Charta is supported by the Nobel peace laureate Liu Xiaobo as well.
Liu Xiaobo still imprisoned
Since the summer of 2009 the holder of the Nobel Peace Prize, Liu Xiaobo, is in prison. The chinese Literary theorist and civil rights defender had been sentenced to 11 years of prison.
Photo: © Amnesty International
Since years he consequently supports peaceful political change in China. In 2008 Liu helped draft Charter 08, a 19-point program that called for greater political freedoms in China and concluded with the signatures of more than 300 academics and intellectuals. Liu was arrested hours before the document’s release onto the Internet, and, at a trial the following year, he was sentenced to 11 years in prison for subversion. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, but neither Liu nor any member of his family was permitted to attend the ceremony in December of that year.
The Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial calls your attention to the following appeal to action: Empty Chair - freedom for Liu Xiaobo!
Human rights defender Ales Bialiatski
Prominent Belarusian human rights defender Ales Bialiatski, who was arrested on 4 August , has now been charged, and his detention order has been extended. Amnesty International considers him a prisoner of conscience .
Ales Bialiatski has been in pre-trial detention in the capital, Minsk, since 4 August. On 12 August, he was charged under Article 243.2 of the Belarusian Criminal Code (“concealment of income on a large scale”) which carries a prison sentence of up to seven years with confiscation of property. On 15 August, his detention order was extended by two months. His trial is to open on 2 November.
Foto: © Amnesty
The charges brought against Ales Bialiatski relate to the use of a personal bank account in Lithuania to support the human rights work of Human Rights Centre Viasna in Belarus, of which is he is Chair. Several other prominent human rights activists and Human Rights Centre Viasna employees have also been interrogated in relation to the case. The information about the bank account is believed to have been given to the Belarusian authorities by the Lithuanian Ministry of Justice. Amnesty International recognises the right of the Belarusian authorities to punish legitimate crimes, but the organization maintains that the charges against Ales Bialatski are politically motivated and intended to obstruct his legitimate work as a human rights defender. He is a prisoner of conscience and he should be released immediately and unconditionally.
Viasna was derecognized by the Belarusian authorities in 2003 and as such was barred from opening a bank account in its name in Belarus. Since derecognition, the Belarusian authorities have repeatedly rejected the organization’s applications for registration. In 2005 it became a criminal offence in Belarus to act in the name of an unregistered organization, punishable by six months to one year in prison.
Women's rights activist Fereshteh Shirazi
On 4 September 2011, Fereshteh Shirazi was arrested when she presented herself for interrogation at the Offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in Amol city, northern Iran. She was initially held in Amol prison however her current location is unknown and access to legal representation and her family is denied. It is believed that Fereshteh Shirazi's arrest may be linked to a criminal case which was opened against her by the Offices of the Ministry of Intelligence in 2009 relating to her work as an advocate for greater equality for women in Iran, as well as entries she made on her online blog. At the time she was accused of “acting against State security”, “publicising lies” and “causing unease in the public mind” because of her interaction with foreign websites and media.
Foto: Fereshteh Shirazi © privat
Priest und human right's activist Nguyen Van Ly in prison again
The police arrested Father Nguyen Van Ly, aged 64, on the 25th of July in the central diocese of Hue before an ambulance transported him to prison. Authorities claim he was returned to prison for distributing anti-government leaflets during his parole.
He had been serving an eight-year prison term for “conducting propaganda against the state” when a stroke and a brain tumour led to his temporary release in March 2010.
“Father Nguyen Van Ly is in very poor health and should never have been arrested in the first place. He is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for his peaceful pro-democracy work,” said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.
“The Vietnamese authorities must release him without delay, and in the meantime reveal his whereabouts and grant him immediate access to family members, his lawyer and adequate medical treatment.”
Ly was sentenced to eight years in prison and five years of house arrest in 2007. The publisher of the secret dissident journal To Do Ngon Luan (Freedom and Democracy), he co-founded the online pro-democracy movement Bloc 8406 and has helped to set up other banned political groups in Viet Nam. He Ly had been serving his jail term in Ba Sao prison, near Ha Noi in northern Viet Nam, when he suffered a stroke in November 2009. He did not receive a proper diagnosis or adequate medical treatment and was only transferred to a prison hospital in Ha Noi some two weeks later. Despite being partially paralyzed, he was returned to his prison cell on 11 December 2009.
On 15 March 2010, he was granted a one-year “temporary suspension” of his sentence to seek medical treatment for a brain tumour.
Since the 1970s, Ly has spent some 17 years in prison – amid harsh conditions and often in solitary confinement – for calling on Vietnamese authorities to respect freedom of expression and other human rights.
Foto: Conservative Party Human Rights Commission
Amnesty International sees Nguyen Van Ly as an non-violent political prisoner. He just has been arrested because he used his freedom of speech peacefully.