Not a Laughing Matter: Famed Comedian Supports Call for Release of Iranian Physicist

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Maz Jobrani, the popular Iranian-American comedian, usually makes people laugh. But now he has set mirth aside to send a serious message to the Iranian authorities: they should release noted physicist and prisoner of conscience Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year prison sentence in Iran’s Evin Prison. In his video message, Mr. Jobrani notes that Omid Kokabee was sentenced to his long prison term after a grossly unfair trial in a Revolutionary Court. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

28 Distinguished Nobel Physics Laureates Support Imprisoned Colleague in Iran

Omid Kokabee

Omid Kokabee

This week marks the announcement of the 2014 Nobel prizes, recognizing the lifetime accomplishments of some of the world’s most extraordinary people. Twenty-eight of these eminent individuals—winners of the Nobel Physics Prize in years between 1972 and 2013—have signed letters to Iran’s Supreme Leader calling for the release of a brilliant young physicist and prisoner of conscience, Omid Kokabee, who is serving a ten-year sentence in one of Iran’s most miserable prisons. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Dear Baku: Stop beating activist. Release her. Drop treason charge!

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Leila Yunus, director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy

Arresting its loudest critic and charging her with “treason” doesn’t seem enough for Azerbaijani officials. Last week, peace activist and human rights defender

was beaten by Kurdakhany detention facility administration staff.

An April 2014 video shows Leyla Yunus confronting officials (in Russian) about not having been allowed to use the toilet during an unlawful detention for interrogation. Although officials eventually allowed her to use a toilet (with a male guard watching her), Leyla says she was not informed of charges against her.

Less than half a year later after the detention, Leyla (and soon her husband Arif Yunus) were arrested and given ridiculous charges of treason and tax evasion. Amnesty International considers both Prisoners of Conscience and calls on Baku to release them immediately and unconditionally (add your voice to our appeal).

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No Bigger Fish to Fry? Why Iran is Imprisoning a Sports Fan

Going to watch a volleyball game shouldn’t mean having to make a major political statement. It certainly shouldn’t mean arrest and indefinite detention in solitary confinement. But that is exactly what happened to dual British-Iranian Ghoncheh Ghavami, a 25-year-old woman who went to Tehran’s Azadi Stadium in June to watch a match during the International Federation of Volleyball World League games. SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Zone 9: The Growing Gulag in Ethiopia

Free Zone 9 Bloggers

(Credit: Hisham Almiraat, Global Voices Online)

In Ethiopia, an ever-increasing number of journalists, opposition members, activists, and other dissenting voices, are imprisoned in the eight zones of the infamous Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa.

However, a ninth zone exists in Ethiopia, one that extends well beyond the walls of Kaliti. The inability to express thoughts freely without fearing for one’s safety represents a virtual ‘imprisonment’ for the vast majority Ethiopian citizens. It was with this principle in mind that “Zone 9” was created.

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Burundi in Crisis: Government Pursues Campaign of Intimidation

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza talks during an interview at the Westin hotel in Paris on June 4, 2014. (Photo credit: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images)

Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza talks during an interview at the Westin hotel in Paris on June 4, 2014 (Photo credit: Francois Guillot/AFP/Getty Images).

This blog posting is part of a series Amnesty USA is publishing to coincide with the U.S.-Africa Summitoccurring August 4-6, 2014. We are utilizing the series to highlight human rights concerns on the continent we feel critically need to be addressed during the summit discussions.

Contributed by Kenneth Harrow, Country Specialist on Burundi for Amnesty International USA

Pierre-Claver Mbonimpa, a Burundian human rights defender, is one of the vital civil society members working for positive change in Africa. Sadly, his voice is currently silenced by the Burundi government.

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Will the President of Myanmar Keep His Promise?

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar's main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests. (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images)

A group of protesters call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests in Yangon on January 5, 2013. Thousands joined a rally in Myanmar’s main city to call for the abolition of repressive laws and an end to politically related arrests (Photo Credit: Soe Than WIN/AFP/Getty Images).

The veneer of progress is wearing thin in Myanmar. A year ago, the President of Myanmar, Thein Sein, promised to release all prisoners of conscience. Earlier this year, to mark Myanmar’s Independence Day, the President ordered the release of thousands of prisoners. Now one year on from the promise to release all prisoners of conscience, the promise remains unfulfilled. Even more troubling is the fact that the government is arresting more prisoners of conscience.

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VICTORY: Meriam Released Thanks to Your Help!

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By Margaret Huang, Amnesty International USA Deputy Executive Director of Campaigns and Programs

Great news! After constant campaigning and unwavering support on the part of more than a million Amnesty activists like you, Meriam Yehya Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death because of her religious beliefs, is free and arrived in Italy with her family yesterday.

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The Anniversary the United Arab Emirates Wants You to Ignore

Mohamed al-Mansoori United Arab Emirates

Dr. Mohamed al-Mansoori is among those detained for political dissent in the UAE (Photo Credit: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images).

There’s an anniversary this week in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that its government wants the world to ignore.

The country has the reputation as being the “welcoming and open” Middle Eastern country, and the government works hard to burnish that image around the world. UAE political reformers know better, and a year ago, a trial of 94 government critics exposed the reality that dissent is muzzled and political freedom severely limited.
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