2018 Russia: Oleg Sentsov - Letter to President Putin

Ukrainian filmmaker and writer Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike since 14 May 2018, is reportedly in a critical condition. According to his lawyer, who visited him in prison on 7 August 2018, Oleg Sentsov has a low haemoglobin level, resulting in anaemia and a slow heartbeat, and has lost 30 kilogrammes. He is refusing to be transferred to a civilian hospital as he is too weak to stand and says that medical staff there have previously been hostile towards him. Best known for his 2011 film Gamer, Oleg Sentsov was arrested four years ago and sentenced to 20 years in prison on 25 August 2015 on spurious terrorism charges after a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. PEN International fears that he was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  In a statement shared by his lawyer, Oleg Sentsov has declared an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ and that ‘the sole condition for its cessation is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located in the territory of the Russian Federation’.

His Excellency
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Ul. Ilyinka, 23
103132 Moscow
Russian Federation

Dear Mr. President,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern for the health of filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. He was arrested four years ago and sentenced to 20 years in prison on spurious terrorism charges after a trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. International opinion fears that he was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s actions in Crimea.

Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike since 14th of May 2018. In a statement shared by his lawyer, Oleg Sentsov declared an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ and that ‘the sole condition for its cessation is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located in the territory of the Russian Federation’.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) explicitly states that prisoners should be allowed to correspond in writing with family and friends at regular intervals. Under Russian legislation, there is usually no limit to the number of letters prisoners may send or receive but correspondence needs be in Russian. The prison authorities are obliged to deliver letters with the minimum of delay. All correspondence is checked and read.

We are calling for Oleg Sentsov’s immediate and unconditional release if, as is feared, he is being persecuted for his legitimate professional activities and peaceful exercise of his right to free expression.

Oslo, August 10th 2018

On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee,

Øivind Hånes, author
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika
Director of the Russian Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, Gennady Kornienko
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2018 Israel: Dareen Tatour

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: PEN International condemns the ongoing house arrest and prosecution of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour, who has been charged with incitement to violence and solidarity with acts of violence, following publications of her work on Facebook and YouTube, and in particular her poem entitled, ‘Qawim
ya sha’abi, qawimhum (Resist, my people, resist them)
’. PEN has carefully reviewed the charge sheet and the evidence against Tatour, and has concluded that she has been targeted for her poetry and peaceful activism. Consequently, it continues to call for her immediate release and for the charges against her to be dropped.

Oslo, 21st of March 2018

Minister of Justice
Ayelet Shaked
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem, 91010, Israel

Attorney General
Avichai Mendelbilt
Ministry of Justice
29 Salah al-Din Street Jerusalem 91010, Israel

The Office of the Deputy Attorney General (International Law)
Ministry of Justice
Alisa Gannel, Adv.
P. O. B ox 929 9 Tel – Aviv 6 1 092 – Israel

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with the ongoing house arrest and prosecution of Palestinian poet Dareen Tatour. Tatour has been charged with incitement to violence and solidarity with acts of violence, following publications of her work on Facebook and YouTube. In a poem, Tatour denounces violations committed by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians, and incites them to resist the Israeli occupation; but she does not call for violence. Peacefully exercising the right to free expression is not a crime.

PEN International has carefully reviewed the charge sheet and the evidence against Tatour, and has concluded that she has been targeted for her poetry and peaceful activism. Consequently, it continues to call for her immediate release and for the charges against her to be dropped.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Dareen Tatour from her house arrest.

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Øivind Hånes
Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Copy:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of Israel in Oslo

2018 Eritrea: Amanuel Asrat

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Amanuel Asrat, an award-winning Eritrean poet, critic, songwriter, and editor-in-chief of the leading newspaper Zemen, meaning The Times, has been detained incommunicado since he was arrested at his home on the morning of 23 September 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried. PEN International believes that Asrat’s ongoing detention is an attempt by the Eritrean government to stifle critical voices, including calls for establishing constitutional government.  Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee calls for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea.

Oslo, 21st of March 2018

Your Excellency
President Isaias Afewerki
Office of the President
P.O. Box 257
Asmara, Eritrea

Your Excellency
Minister of Information
Hon. Yemane Gebremeskel
P.O. Box 242
Asmara, Eritrea

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with poet Amanuel Asrat, who has been incommunicado for over 16 years. Asrat was arrested at his home on the morning of September 23rd 2001 amid a crackdown on state and private media. Other independent journalists, opposition politicians and students were also arrested during the crackdown. It is believed that Asrat and the other journalists have neither been charged nor tried.

Asrat is thought to be among the few surviving journalists from the 2001 crackdown, alive but in deteriorating health. Unconfirmed reports allege that some of the journalists have died, having been subjected to torture or other ill treatment, including lack of access to medical care.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release of Mr. Asrat. We call for his immediate release and the end to violations of freedom of expression in Eritrea. We also ask for immediate clarification of the fate of all detained journalists and immediate release of those still alive.

Yours sincerely,
Mr. Øivind Hånes
Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Copy:
Embassy of the State of Eritrea, Stockholm
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2018 China: Liu Xia

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Liu Xia is a poet, artist, and founding member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre. Xia has been held under unofficial house arrest in her Beijing apartment since her late husband, the poet Liu Xiaobo, was named the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in October 2010. PEN International believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity. Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee calls for the immediate and unconditional release from extra-judicial house arrest of the poet and artist Liu Xia, and for all restrictions on her freedom of movement and expression to be lifted.

His Excellency Xi Jinping
President of the People’s Republic of China
State Council Beijing 100032
P.R. China

Oslo, 21.03.18

Your Excellency,

Today, on World Poetry Day, our thoughts are with poet Liu Xia who has been held in unofficial house arrest during her husbands long imprisonment, and after his death still lives under strong surveillance. There are reports that Liu Xia’s mental and physical health continue to suffer due to her detention. PEN International believes that the ongoing, extra-judicial house arrest of Liu Xia is a form of punishment for the human rights work carried out by her husband, Liu Xiaobo, and is extremely concerned for her physical and psychological integrity.

Together with our PEN colleagues worldwide we call for the immediate and unconditional release from extra-judicial house arrest of the poet and artist Liu Xia, and call for all restrictions on her freedom of movement and expression to be lifted. Liu Xia should be granted access to all necessary medical care.

We urge Chinese authorities to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which provides for freedom of legitimate expression, and freedom of movement and reminding them that as a signatory to the ICCPR China is obliged to ‘refrain from acts that would defeat or undermine the treaty’s objective and purpose.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Chinese Embassy of Norway

2018 Kazakhstan: Aron Atabek

WORLD POETRY DAY 2018: Aron Atabek is a prominent Kazakh poet, journalist and dissident. He has been in prison for over 10 years, including frequent periods in punitive confinement in extremely harsh conditions. Norwegian PEN Writers In Prison Committee calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Aron Atabek and, in the meantime, for him to be moved to a prison within visiting distance of his family and to be allowed regular visits, telephone calls, correspondence, and access to writing materials.

President of Kazakhstan
President Nursultan Nazarbayev
Government House
Mangilik Yel st. 6
010000 Astana City
Kazakhstan
Oslo 21st of March 2018

Your Excellency,

Norwegian PEN is urgently concerned about the welfare of poet, journalist and dissident Aron Atabek, who has been imprisoned since 2007. Atabek was charged with organisation of mass disorder in 2007, but maintains his innocence.

Whilst in prison Atabek has suffered several periods of solitary confinement, denial of access to natural light and writing materials. Severe restrictions have also been placed on his contact with his family and on any communication with the outside world. Since 2013 Atabek has been kept in a prison located over 1000 km away from his family.

Prolonged bouts of solitary confinement are prohibited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, by which Kazakhstan is bound. In denying Atabek visits from his family and regular correspondence with them, Kazakhstan is also violating the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules).

Norwegian PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Aron Atabek. In the unwanted case of any delays to his release, we call for his transferal to a prison within visiting distance of his family, and for him to be given access to regular visits, telephone calls, correspondence and necessary writing materials.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
Diplomatic Mission of the Republic of Kazakstan in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2017: Turkey: Hasip Yanlıç

Norwegian PEN and PEN International are concerned at the arrest and detention of writer and Kurdish PEN member Hasip Yanlıç who was charged on 6 July 2017 with “aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation without being a member” after being arrested at his house in Diyarbakır. Norwegian PEN and PEN International fears that Hasip Yanlıç is being targeted for his writings and outspoken stance on linguistic rights and Kurdish education. In this letter, we call on the Turkish authorities to release Yanlıç immediately.

Minister of Justice Abdülhamit Gül
Ministry of Justice
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi: 22
Bakanlıklar
06659 Kızılay-Ankara
Republic of Turkey

Oslo 16th August 2017

Dear Minister,

Norwegian PEN is concerned to hear of the arrest of Hasip Yanlıç who on 6th July this year was charged with «aiding and abetting a terrorist organisation without being a member», and is currently being held in Diyarbakır Closed D Type Prison.

We fear that Yanlıç is being targeted solely for his writings and his outspoken stance on Kurdish education and linguistic rights.

Norwegian PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Yanlıç, as well as of all other detained writers and jounalists as long as they are not being charged with a criminal offence and tried promptly in accordance with international fair trial standards.

We furthermore call on Turkish authorities to not use the state of emergency to crack down on peaceful protests, civil society, media and education. We likewise urge Turkish authorities to put an immediate stop to the crackdown on the Kurdish regions, and to do their utmost to bring about a peaceful solution to the ongoing conflict.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Johanne Fronth-Nygren
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım
The Turkish Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2017 Russia: Oleg Sentsov

10 May marked three years since prominent Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges after an unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture.

May 18st 2017

Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Mr. Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika

Human Right’s Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Mrs. Tatiana Nikolaevna Moskalkova

To whom it may concern,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee hereby urge you to immediately free writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from prison.

Sentsov was arrested on the grounds of “suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks” and sentenced to 20 years in prison during an unfair trial by Russian military court with serious flaws in the judicial proceedings. The key witness retracted his statement, saying it had been extracted under torture. Sentsov was still convicted and is currently being held in Russia, despite him being a Ukrainian citizen.

These unfair proceedings give reason to believe Sentsov was arrested and tried because of his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. We therefore urge you to immediately release him from prison. If there are grounds to prosecute him on these charges, this should be done by a civil court under Ukrainian law.

Oleg Sentsov has claimed he was tortured and mistreated in the time following his arrest on May 10th 2014. We therefore also urge for the Russian authorities to order an independent and impartial investigation into Sentsov’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

Yours sincerely,
Mari Moen Holsve
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Russian Embassy in Norway

2017: Yemen: Yahya al-Jubaihi

Yahya al-Jubaihi, a prominent Yemeni writer and journalist, underwent a grossly unfair trial that resulted in a death sentence. Moreover, he has been arbitrary detained since September 2016. The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee  believes his detention and death sentence are related to al-Jubaihi’s articles criticizing Houthi insurgence.

 

To

Ministry of Justice
Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Akbat, Minister of justice
Sana’a, Yemen
Email: mail.yemengov@gmail.com
info.government@yemen.net.ye

Oslo, May 14th 2017

Dear Minister of justice Mr. Ahmed Abdullah Akbat,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned about the death sentence issued by a Houthi court in Sana’a against Yahya al-Jubaihi, a prominent Yemeni writer and journalist, after a grossly unfair trial. He has been arbitrary detained since September 2016. We fear that al-Jubaihi’s detention and death sentence are related to his articles criticizing Houthi insurgence.

We call for Yahya al-Jubaihi’s death sentence to be quashed. Yahya al-Jubaihi should be released or retried in proceedings that conform to international fair trial standards and without the possibility of a death sentence.

 

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee urge the Houthi authorities to ensure the peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression, including the release of all detainees held solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights.

 

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN Norway

 

COPY:

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice in Yemen, Ministry of Human Rights in Yemen

2017: Turkey: Sajjad Jahan Fard

Sajjad Jahan Fard, journalist and writer, and his friend Hassan Baladeh were arrested while on Mardin, in South-eastern Turkey, and are charged with “membership in a terrorist organization”. Linked to the Kurdish intellectual community, Fard and Baladeh are facing up to 10 years in prison.

 

Minister of Justice Bekir Bozdağ
Milli Müdafaa Caddesi No: 22
Bakanlıklar
06659, Kızılay
Ankara
Turkey

February 10th 2017

Dear Sir,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee are concerned with the arrest and detention of Kurdish Iranian writer and journalist Sajjad Jahan Fard, and that of his friend Hassan Baladeh, who were charged on 25th January 2017 with “membership of a terrorist organisation”. Upon their arrest they were refused access to their families and legal counsel for four days.

Fard and Baladeh were arrested while on a trip to the city of Mardin, in South-eastern Turkey. They were there as tourists, taking pictures, as any tourist would do, and the charges against them are groundless.

PEN International urges the Turkish authorities to release them immediately. We urge you to safeguard freedom of expression, human rights and to release all journalists and writers held solely in connection with their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

 

Yours sincerely,

Mari Moen Holsve

Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

COPY: President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Embassy of Turkey in Norway, The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2017: Russia: Natalya Sharina

Natalya Sharina, the director of the Library of Ukranian Literature in Moscow, has been charged with “inciting ethnic hatred and humiliating human dignity,” and has been under house arrest since 2015. The Norwegian Library Association and Norwegian PEN have sent an appeal to Russian authorities calling for he release.

 

Embassy of the Russian Federation
Drammensveien 74
0244 OSLO

Oslo, 31st  January 2017

 

Your Excellencies,


We write to you as the chair of the committee of freedom of expression in the Norwegian Library Association (NLA) and the chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN.


Natalya Sharina, Director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, has now been under house arrest for more than a year. 
The Norwegian Library Association and the Norwegian PEN organization remains extremely concerned over the treatment of Sharina. She was arrested and placed under house arrest in October 2015 after being accused of inciting hatred or animosity towards a social group by allegedly holding banned books in the Library.  Sharina was subsequently arrested, and placed under house arrest. The Court has now extended her house arrest until 28 April 2017, but allowed Natalya Sharina to have daily walks in fresh air for two hours.


We express our deepest concerns at the continued imprisonment of Sharina, and call for her immediate and unconditional release if she is held – as we believe is very likely to be the case – solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression. 
We believe that the treatment of the Library of Ukrainian Literature, and its staff – and in particular Natalya Sharina – is completely disproportionate and unnecessary. As such it is an attack on democracy, learning and culture.


Libraries and librarians have a key role in supporting human rights, including freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, and an attack on libraries or librarians is an attack on democracy and culture.


We are strongly committed to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


The Norwegian Library Association and the Norwegian PEN 
calls upon the Russian officials to release Natalya Sharina, in line with Russia’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression.

 

Brit Bildøen,                                                 Ingeborg Rygh Hjorthen,

 

Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee,          Chair of the committee of freedom of expression,

Norwegian PEN                                               Norwegian Library Association