10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

Check out our list of 10 absurd arrests and sentences of the year. You might be surprised to learn what can get you thrown in jail in a few places around the world, and how harsh the sentences are once you’re there.

belarus teddy bears fly over minsk

Bears being dropped. Photo via Studio Total

1. Posting photos of teddy bears.

Anton Suryapin of Belarus spent more than a month in detention after posting photos of teddy bears being dropped from an airplane. The bears were part of a stunt by a Swedish advertising company calling for freedom of expression in Belarus. Anton is charged of “organizing illegal migration” simply because he was the first upload photos of the teddy bears, and still faces a prison sentence of up to seven years.

2. Tweeting.

After allegedly “publicly insulting the King” on Twitter, a Bahraini man had his six-month prison sentence upheld on appeal, while three others are serving four-month prison sentences. Article 214 of Bahrain’s penal code makes it a crime to offend the King.

3. Opposing the death penalty.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Join Hollywood and Amnesty International in Calling for the Release of Behrouz Ghobadi

By Nazanin Boniadi and Roxana Saberi
Nazanin Boniadi is an actress, activist and spokesperson for Amnesty International USA. Roxana Saberi is an Iranian-American journalist, author and human rights advocate. www.roxanasaberi.com

Behrouz with his newborn son, Harmang

Behrouz with his newborn son, Harmang.

The imprisonment of Iranian filmmaker Behrouz Ghobadi appears to be the latest attempt by Iran’s regime to silence the country’s artists. Hollywood has united with Amnesty International to call for his release; now others can join them by sending a message  of concern to Iran’s supreme leader.

Behrouz, a younger brother of exiled Iranian film director Bahman Ghobadi, was arrested on November 4 in western Iran. Since then, he has had no contact with either his family or an attorney. His family has asked the Iranian authorities for information, but no one has told them why or where he is detained.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Get On the Map!

Pussy Riot mapSting, Roger Waters and a growing number of artists and activists are joining Amnesty International activists like you who are raising their voices to help free Pussy Riot.

All over the world, freedom-loving people are deeply troubled that Masha Alekhina and Nadya Tolokonnikova of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot are still in prison.  A Russian appeals court failed to overturn their sentence in October despite a global outcry calling for their acquittal.

Russian Constitution Day

Amnesty International activists projected Pussy Riot images onto the Russian Embassy on Russian Constitution Day.

Russian President Vladimir Putin didn’t like the song they performed. And, on top of that, despite the fact that last week was Russian Constitution Day—a constitution that guarantees the right to free expression, mind you, officials are shutting down free speech all across Russia – and getting away with it.

Pussy Riot’s case connects the worlds of music and human rights.  When you add yourself to the Free Pussy Riot Map – Amnesty International’s newest human rights project for solidarity, you help deepen that connection.

When asked how he felt about Pussy Riot’s case, Sting had this to say: “Dissent is a legitimate and essential right in any democracy and modern politicians must accept this fact with tolerance.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Freedom of Expression Under Attack in Central America: Four Cases From New AI Report

Out of  almost 300 cases of human rights abuses covered in Amnesty International’s new report, Transforming Pain into Hope:  Human Rights Defenders in Latin America, only four have resulted in the conviction of those responsible.

One of the main reasons why violators continue enjoy impunity is that they target precisely those individuals who expose their crimes.  The report therefore emphasizes the danger posed to journalists, bloggers, and trade unionists who speak up for human rights.

Just within the relatively small region of Central America, the report highlights four important cases of attacks on freedom of expression that seek to cover up other human rights abuses: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Last-Minute Halloween Costume Idea: Don a Balaclava for Pussy Riot

Dress up for Pussy Riot this HalloweenStill looking for a Halloween costume? Why not don a balaclava for Pussy Riot and stand up for human rights!

Three members of the punk rock band Pussy Riot were arrested in February for performing a protest song at a Cathedral in Moscow. Russian prosecutors charged the three members with “hooliganism” and a court eventually handed two of them jail sentences. While we were thrilled to hear that the third detained member was conditionally released, one simple truth remains – none of these women should have been arrested in the first place. Demand that Russia release Pussy Riot now!

The women of Pussy Riot wear balaclava masks not only to protect their identities, but also to let the world know that anyone can fight for the right to free expression. This Halloween you can stand united with thousands of activists all over the country and wear a balaclava in support of Pussy Riot. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Balaclavas in Action

We got word yesterday that authorities will rule on Pussy Riot’s appeal on October 10. In the meantime balaclava-clad Amnesty activists have made their rounds across New York City during the UN General Assembly protesting the unjust 2 year prison sentence for three women of Pussy Riot.  And around the world thousands more joined in to make a very public statement that the world is watching.

Check out these inspiring images of balaclavas-in-action and join the movement by continuing to take action until each and every Pussy Riot member has been set free.

Time is Running Out for Pussy Riot

members of pussy riot

Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Maria Alyokhina could face three years in prison after they called for Vladimir Putin’s ouster in a song. (Photo AFP/GettyImages)

We thought we had more time. Sadly, the latest reports are saying that we may only have less than a week to stop Russian prosecutors from pursuing the outrageous charges against feminist punk band, Pussy Riot.

These young women are in serious danger of being shipped off to a labor camp, where they risk both physical and sexual abuse as prosecutors seek a 3-year sentence against them. There is no time to lose (take action here now).

Why? Because their punk rock band gave a politically charged and impromptu performance poking fun at President Putin at a cathedral.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Sara Hickman: Why I Am Not Going to Eurovision

Policemen Man-handle Activist in Azerbaijan

Policemen man-handle a political activist during a protest in Baku, Azerbaijan, March 12, 2011. Azerbaijan is the host of the 2012 Eurovision song contest. ©IRFS

By Sara Hickman, Official State Musician of Texas

I have declined an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to visit a beautiful country and witness the world’s most-watched cultural event. That’s because my trip to Azerbaijan for Eurovision this week would be sponsored by a government responsible for grave human rights violations.  

Amnesty International has been diligently shining a light on human rights abuses in ex-Soviet Azerbaijan, which gets to host this year’s popular European concert competition – Eurovision. Azerbaijan has over a dozen recently-arrested prisoners of conscience, oppressed press, and almost no permitted political rallies.  I would love to visit Azerbaijan, but not at the expense of indirect association with human rights violations. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Russia: Where a Punk Rock Performance Could Land You in Prison

pussy riot

"Pussy Riot" (Image via Wikipedia)

Three young women in Russia may spend seven years in prison for “hooliganism” after a flash punk rock performance at a Moscow church that criticized President Vladimir Putin.

Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Ekaterina Samutsevich, alleged members of the controversial band Pussy Riot, were arrested in March 2012 and are being held in pre-trial detention following the politically-fueled performance at Moscow’s famed Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

Egyptian air is good for the lungs / Do Tahrir on Red Square!

Pussy Riot lyric

While the three women deny any involvement in the protest (band members cover their faces with balaclavas) even if they took part, the severity of the response by Russian authorities is not justifiable to the peaceful – even if to many, offensive – expression of their political beliefs.

Pussy Riot is a Moscow-based anonymous feminist band that, for the last year and a half, has played unauthorized “flash performances” to protest government policies (watch them in action here).  Pussy Riot’s members use their right to freedom of speech – through music – to shed light on what they perceive to be a corrupt government. In an interview with the Guardian, band member “Garadzha” explains:
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Powerful Documentaries About the Persecution of Iran’s Baha’is Motivate Thousands to Activism

Bahai event Washington

Plight of Baha'i Leaders Publicized in Washington

When creativity and artistic vision unite with passionate commitment to fight injustice, the result can take the world by storm!

The Education Under Fire project, which Amnesty International is proud to support, includes a documentary film Education Under Fire that that has been screened at dozens of venues around the U.S. since its Amnesty International-cosponsored debuts in New York and Los Angeles this past fall.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST