10 Absurd and Unjust Arrests of 2012

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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.

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Top Ten Reasons to Write for Rights

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Fall is my favorite time of year: the air is cooler, the leaves are pretty, Amnesty International student groups are back together again, and people start signing up for the Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon.

In this—the world’s largest human rights event—we use letters, cards and more to demand the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering abuses and work to improve people’s lives.

Those are some pretty amazing reasons to participate, but in case you need more, here are my top ten reasons to Write for Rights: SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Mao Hengfeng's Bittersweet Homecoming

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Mao Hengfeng with her three daughters.

Mao Hengfeng, a human rights defender in China, a wife, and a mother of three, has just been released from her most recent bout of detention and torture — an experience so brutal that her life is at urgent risk.

Her crime? Advocating on behalf of women’s reproductive rights, the victims of forced evictions in Shanghai, and other Chinese human rights defenders.

Mao’s most recent arrest was a result of her protest in front of the Beijing municipal intermediate court expressing support for human rights activist and Nobel Laureate Liu Xiaobo. On March 4, 2010, Mao was sentenced to 18 months in Re-education Through Labor.

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Mao Hengfeng Is Free In China!

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Update (2/24): Unfortunately, we celebrated too soon;  Mao Hengfeng has been detained again. According to her husband, Shanghai Yangpu district police came to her house today, saying they wanted to talk with her. Soon after, officials from Anhui Provincial Women’s Re-education Through Labour (RTL) facility also arrived, and in total over 30 police surrounded her house.

The police told her that she had committed activities which violated the terms of her medical parole, and was being sent back to RTL. She was not allowed to change her clothes or pack anything she needed.

After being unexpectedly released on 22 February, Mao Hengfeng celebrated with a group of friends in a restaurant that evening. Since then, she had been prevented from leaving her house. One friend who came to visit her was stopped by police and detained. Others who tried to visit were stopped and sent away.

Take action now to stop the re-incarceration of Mao Hengfeng.

Mao Hengfeng outside Shanghai petition office with her three daughters. © Private

We have great news to report — Mao Hengfeng was released unexpectedly yesterday, six months before the end of her sentence. She had been detained since March 2010 for protesting the arrest of Liu Xiaobo, a prominent human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize winner.

This most recent detention was only one of many for Mao. Mao has courageously worked for human rights in China for years, and has suffered torture and ill-treatment at the hands of the Chinese authorities.

Mao was featured as a case in Amnesty’s 2010 Write for Rights campaign, which generated an incredible number – 636,139 – of appeals, from 51 different countries worldwide, for the release of Mao and other human rights activists. Mao’s husband, Wu Xuewei, believes that international pressure was integral to Mao’s release, and he sends his thanks to Amnesty for all the campaigning we’ve all done on Mao’s behalf.

This year’s Write for Rights campaign has already seen some amazing successes, including the release of Femi Peters in Gambia, and now the release of Mao Hengfeng. We sincerely thank you for your letters, which have already delivered hope for so many.

Mao Hengfeng has been detained again today, following her release on 22 February.
According to her husband, Shanghai Yangpu district police came to her house on 24 February and said they wanted to talk with her. Soon after they arrived, officials from Anhui Provincial Women’s Re-education Through Labour (RTL) facility arrived, and in total over 30 police surrounded her house.
The police told her that she had committed activities which violated the terms of her medical parole, and was being sent back to RTL. She was not allowed to change her clothes or pack anything she needed.
After being unexpectedly released on 22 February, Mao Hengfeng celebrated with a group of friends in a restaurant that evening. Since then, she had been prevented from leaving her house. On 23 February she attempted to go for a medical check, but was stopped by the police. According to her family, Mao Hengfeng did not argue with the police and stayed at home.
Later the same day, a friend came to visit her but was stopped by police and detained. More people tried to visit her but they were all stopped and sent away.
An Urgent Action is being prepared, and we will post it here as soon as it is finalised.

Detention and Torture: Just Another Day in the Life of a Human Rights Defender in China

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This post is part of our Write for Rights series.

Mao Hengfeng

Mao Hengfeng

Mao Hengfeng has been repeatedly detained and tortured for her advocacy on behalf of women’s reproductive rights and the victims of forced evictions in China. Mao herself has been forcibly injected with drugs, fired by her employer, detained in a psychiatric hospital and beaten because of her choice to reproduce.  She has three daughters, which is a direct violation of China’s family-planning policy.

In March, she was sentenced to 18 months in “Re-education Through Labor” (RTL)  for participating in a peaceful protest in support of human rights defender and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Liu Xiaobo.  In July, she spoke out about the torture and inhumane treatment she experienced while in RTL. She displayed bruises from her frequent beatings and spoke about the unsanitary conditions of her detention, which have led to a skin infection.

Mao is featured along with 11 other cases of human rights abuses in the 2010 Global Write-a-thon. You can take action on behalf of Mao and other cases by signing up to write for rights as either an individual or as part of an event. Find an event near you!

Claire Lesikar, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.