Azerbaijan: Leyla Yunus Released, but 18 Other Prisoners of Conscience are Still Behind the Bars

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By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik, chair of the Eurasia Coordination Group at Amnesty International USA

Leyla Yunus, one of Azerbaijan’s most prominent human rights defenders and former prisoner of conscience was freed on December 9. The Baku Court of Appeals changed her sentence with a conditional release due to her deteriorated health. The court placed her on probation for the next five years and maintained her guilty verdict, widely denounced as political retaliation for her work. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

My Husband is in Prison for Supporting Human Rights in Saudi Arabia

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Samar Badawi, wife of imprisoned Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and their daughter Joud. Samar is also the sister of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi.

Samar Badawi, wife of imprisoned Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, and their daughter Joud.

Samar Badawi’s husband is Waleed Abu al-Khair, a prominent human rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia. Waleed is in prison, serving a 15-year sentence for speaking out about human rights.

Take action now to demand Waleed’s release

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. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Celebrating from Prison in Angola

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Marcos Mavungo spent his birthday, December 6th, in prison, where he has been for the past 9 months. He, along with the #Angola15, endured the irony of Angola’s recent 40th independence celebration locked in a cell. Mavungo’s crime was attempting to organize a peaceful protest. The #Angola15 were meeting to discuss non-violent measures to bring governmental changes in civil and human rights freedoms. None of them will be home for Christmas or to celebrate the new year. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

How has Albert Woodfox Survived 40 Years in Solitary Confinement?

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By Kristin Hulaas Sunde, Global Content Producer at Amnesty International

Albert Woodfox has spent the last 40 years alone in a tiny US prison cell. His old friend Robert King – who was also imprisoned for decades in the notorious Angola prison – tells us how Albert’s political courage and global support are keeping him going, despite the pain and isolation.

“Angola was considered the bloodiest prison in America. There was slave-like labour – people worked 17 hours a day for two and a half cents an hour. There was a lot of raping going on – the prison guards sold the younger inmates [into sexual slavery].” SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

One Letter Can Change a Life. Millions Can Start a Human Rights Movement

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By Maya Delany, Amnesty USA Student Activist Coordinator for Western Massachusetts

Last December, I arrived at my student group’s annual Write for Rights AmnesTEA event and was greeted by dim lighting, steaming beverages, and our group members sitting in a circle writing letters. I poured myself some tea, read summaries of each case, and started writing a letter to the King of Saudi Arabia about Raif Badawi, a Saudi Arabian blogger who has been sentenced to 10 years in jail and 1,000 lashes for simply expressing his opinions.

Last year’s Write for Rights, with hundreds of thousands of people worldwide writing a record-breaking 3 million letters and email actions SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Why I’m Taking Action for Zunar

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Drawing with embedded photograph showing one of this years cases for Write for Rights. All design assets associated with this campaign available here: https://amnesty.app.box.com/s/9w3s2c96tz7kl0i26gb914bj0ua1qvlb Zulkiflee Anwar “Zunar” Ulhaque faces a lengthy jail sentence after taking to Twitter to condemn the jailing of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Zunar is a political cartoonist well known for his satirical attacks on government corruption and electoral fraud. He now faces nine charges under the Sedition Act, a draconian, outdated law from 1948 dredged up to grant the government sweeping powers to arrest and lock up its critics. In the first six months of 2015, more than 40 journalists, academics, political activists and lawyers were interrogated, arrested or charged under the Sedition Act. The space for dissent and debate in Malaysia is disappearing fast.

By Harry Belafonte, artist and activist 

All my life I have used my art to fight for social justice. So when I see freedom of expression under serious attack, I must act.

That is why I stand with Amnesty International today in demanding justice for courageous Malaysian cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar “Zunar” Ulhaque, who is facing decades in prison for political Tweets he sent in February.

Join me. Urge the Malaysian government to immediately drop the charges against Zunar.

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Letter from Shawkan Photojournalist Imprisoned in Egypt

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Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested on Wednesday 14 August 2013 as he was 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.

Photojournalist Mahmoud Abou Zeid, known as Shawkan, was arrested on Wednesday 14 August 2013 as he was 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.

This letter was first published by Mada Masr here.

Amnesty International has collected nearly 90,000 signatures worldwide in a petition calling for Egyptian photojournalist Mahmoud Abu Zeid’s release ahead of his first court session, scheduled for December 12 at Cairo Criminal Court.

Mahmoud Abu Zeid, more popularly known as Shawkan, has written a letter of thanks (below) to all those calling for his freedom.

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Will you stand with Teodora?

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Teodora del Carmen Vásquez, one of 12 cases in Amnesty’s Write for Rights campaign this fall, has been in prison since 2008 because she suffered a still-birth.  

Teodora still has 23 more years to serve out of a 30-year prison sentence, which is supported by El Salvador’s draconian abortion law. El Salvador has a total ban on abortion, meaning that abortion is illegal even if a woman’s or girl’s life or health is at risk, if the fetus is not viable, or if the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest.
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After a Decade in Jail for Raising a Flag, Filep Karma is Freed

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By Max White, Country Specialist, Indonesia and Timor-Lesté, Amnesty International USA

Indonesian authorities this week released Filep Karma from prison more than 10 years after arresting him for simply raising a flag.  Amnesty International USA celebrates this long-overdue release of prisoner of conscience Filep Karma from Abepura Prison in Papua, Indonesia.

On December 1, 2004, police violently beat and stomped on Filep Karma, after arresting him for leading a peaceful ceremony which included raising the Morning Star flag, a Papuan symbol. He was (and is) a prominent advocate for the rights of Indonesia’s Papuan population. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Free my Father, the World’s Longest Imprisoned Journalist

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By Aigul Bekzhanova

My name is Aigul, and I am writing to you about my father, imprisoned journalist Muhammad Bekzhanov.

My father is the world’s longest imprisoned journalist, together with his codefendant Yusuf Ruzimuradov from the same paper, jailed at the same time in 1999.

My father’s crime? He dared to speak the truth about human rights abuses by the Uzbekistani government. In 1999, security forces tortured him nearly to death, and forced him to confess to “anti-state” crimes. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST