Death of POC Fathi al-Jahmi

Fathi Al-Jahmi became an activist for democracy in the 1970s. When he was a provincial governor in 2002, he criticized Muammar al-Gadhafi’s authoritarian regime, calling for free elections, a free press, and the release of political prisoners.  The same year, he was sentenced to five years for speaking out against the government.  He was released in 2004 and arrested again a month later.

Fathi el-JahmiDespite modest improvements in the human rights field in Libya, all forms of public expression, association and assembly are tightly controlled by the authorities. Any form of group activity based on a political ideology opposed to the principles of the al-Fateh Revolution of 1 September 1969, which brought Libya’s leader Colonel Mu‘ammar Al-Gaddafi to power, is criminalized by law.

Despite his deteriorating health, El-Jahmi never ceased his campaign for change, indicating in a 2005 interview with Physicians for Human Rights Dr. Dan Otter that he is “struggling for human rights, for democracy, for this country [and] will call for democracy and transparency in Libya”.

In a statement, Amnesty International said:

Amnesty International is greatly distressed by the news of the death of Libyan opposition leader Fathi el-Jahmi earlier today in an Amman, Jordan, hospital following his recent “release” and transfer from detention at the Tripoli Medical Center in Libya.

An advocate of political reform, he was detained in Libya in March 2004 and held without charge or trial, most recently at the Tripoli Medical Center.  Approximately two weeks ago, he was flown to Jordan for medical treatment.

Amnesty International is still seeking clarification from the Libyan authorities as to the circumstances in which el-Jahmi, who was an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience, became seriously ill and was transferred to Jordan.

For more information, see Physicians for Human Rights, World Bulletin News, or News24.

Free Roxana Saberi

In a press statement released today, Amnesty International condemned the eight-year eight-year prison sentence imposed by an Iranian Revolutionary Court on Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi who was convicted of “espionage” following a brief closed door trial in Tehran.

Saberi had been arrested on January 31 and held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since then. Legal proceedings in Iran’s Revolutionary Courts are severely flawed and fail to meet international standards for fair trials. The evidence against Saberi has not been made public.

The American born, 31-year-old Saberi is the daughter of an Iranian father and Japanese mother and worked for NPR and other news outlets. An interview on NPR with her father can be found here

Amnesty International issued an urgent action on March 16 when Saberi was first detained, mobilizing activists worldwide to send letters to Iranian officials calling on the authorities to release her unless she is to be charged with a recognizable criminal offense. AIUSA recently issued a second urgent action on Friday, April 17, after news that she had been tried in a closed courtroom.

Several dual-national Iranians have been detained in Iran in recent years since the U.S. Congress announced an extra U.S. $75 million funding for “supporting democracy” in Iran, including Dr Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh, Parnaz Azima and Ali Shakeri. Most have been accused of acting against national security, particularly with relation to participation in an alleged “soft revolution” in Iran. The United States also holds five Iranian diplomats arrested in Iraq in 2007. In a meeting with the Swiss President on April 19, President Ahmadinejad called for their release. Some commentators have also suggested that Roxana Saberi’s arrest and trial may also be in part due to internal rivalries in the Iranian system in regard to the election of President Obama in the United States and his recent overtures towards Iran.

Azerbaijani journalist: "They could not handcuff my tongue"

Released Azerbaijani journalist Mirza Sakit Zahidov
Image source (edited)

After three years of prison, famous Azerbaijani satirist and poet Sakit Zahidov (aka Mirza Sakit) is free.

In the words of an Amnesty International USA press release:

…Sakit Zahidov was pardoned under an amnesty act passed in March by the country’s parliament, the Milli Mejlis.

Serious doubt had been cast on Sakit Zahidov’s conviction and imprisonment after the authorities’ failed to clarify ambiguities in the evidence and irregularities in trial procedures. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience.


Reporters Without Borders has hailed the release:

“This is great news. It is a significant development for press freedom in Azerbaijan, a country ruled by President Aliev with an iron hand. We share the joy of Zahidov’s family, lawyers and support committee, who had been awaiting his release since last month, and we urge the authorities to free the three other journalists still in prison. They include Zahidov’s elder brother Ganimat, who was given a four-year sentence in March 2008.”

In an interview, Mr. Zahidov said:

I was really nervous, when they handcuffed me. But they could not handcuff my tongue. It is clear that it was instruction from the “top.” But the administration had a headache after that during a long period of time.

Talking about his future plans, he added:

I am going to publish my poems. There are also some plans, which can be carried into life through electronic media. I would like to say that it is not a tragedy to get into prison, but release from prison is not happiness, either. However, I feel happy, because I am free today and because I was in jail yesterday

In the words of Reporters Without Borders:

The three other journalists still in prison are Ganimat Zahidov of Azadlig, Eynulla Fatullaiev of Realny Azerbaijan and Gundelik Azerbaijan and Mushfig Husseynov of Bizim Yol. Azerbaijan was ranked 150th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Aliev is on the organisation’s list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”