Category Archives: Protestbrev

2020 Iran: Narges Mohammadi

Deprivation of health care in Iranian prisons is a serious danger to political prisoners including Narges Mohammadi.

President Hassan Rouhani
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran

PEN Norway is deeply concerned by the health conditions of journalist, human rights defender, and honorary member of PEN Norway, Narges Mohammadi in Zanjan prison in Iran. Narges Mohammadi recently stated in a letter from prison that she and 11 of her cellmates had many of the symptoms of Covid-19. After pressure from her family, Mohammadi was given a COVID test on 8 July but the authorities have reportedly refused to disclose the results. In the letter, she mentioned the lack of hygienic items and bad and unhealthy food in the prison and the inattention of prison officials to the needs of sick prisoners. She had already objected to the barring of the right to have a regular telephone call to her children.

PEN Norway calls on the Iranian authorities to take immediate responsibility and care of Narges Mohammadi and the other prisoners’ health. Our most important demand is her unconditional release from prison and the opportunity to visit and talk to her children and family.

Narges Mohammadi has been sentenced to 16 years prison, and all of her charges are related to her human rights activities, including opposing the death penalty and protest against the violation of social and political rights.

PEN Norway:
  • Calls on the Iranian authorities to drop the charges laid against Narges Mohammadi immediately and unconditionally.
  • Calling Iranian authorities to observance all related articles to prisoners’ rights of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which has been signed by the Iranian state.
  • Calling on the Iranian authorities to stop harassing Narges Mohammadi and other prisoners by banning them from visiting or talking to their families and forcing them to be held in high-risk prison conditions, especially with the outbreak of COVID-19.

On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee,

Asieh Amini

For the reader:

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Send appeals to:

Leader of the Islamic Republic

Grand Ayatollah Sayed ‘Ali Khamenei

The Office of the Supreme Leader Islamic Republic Street

End of Shahid Keshvar Doust Street, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran Email: http://www.leader.ir/langs/en/…

Twitter: @khamenei_ir (English-language account), @Khamenei_ar

(Arabic-language), @Khamenei_es (Spanish-language account).

Head of the Judiciary

Ebrahim Raisi c/o Public Relations Office

Number 4, Deadend of 1 Azizi – Vali Asr Street Tehran,

Islamic Republic of Iran

President of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Hassan Rouhani
Pasteur Street, Pasteur Square
Tehran
Islamic Republic of Iran

Email: media@rouhani.ir http://rouhani.ir/register.php

Twitter: @HassanRouhani (English) and @Rouhani_ir (Persian)

And copy to the Embassy of Iran in your country. You can find embassy addresses here.

Background

Narges Mohammadi is an Iranian writer, journalist and human rights defender, and Honorary Member of Danish, Belgian, Norwegian and Swedish PEN. She is the former Vice-President and spokesperson of the Defenders of Human Rights Center (DHRC), which advocates for human rights reform and represents political prisoners and prisoners of conscience in legal proceedings. She is serving a total of 16 years in prison for ‘gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security’,  ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘founding and running an illegal organisation’ for her work with the Campaign for Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty, known by its Persian acronym, Legam.

Mohammadi was imprisoned at Evin Prison in May 2015 where she was held until December 2019 when she was transferred to Zanjan Prison, some 300 km from Tehran, after she had staged protests against prison conditions and the killings of hundreds of protestors who were demonstrating against gas price rises in November 2019. She suffered bruising and other injuries while being transferred, described by Amnesty International as having been violent and a punishment for her prison activism.

On 22 February 2020, she was served with further charges for these prison protests on accusation of ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and ‘assembly and collusion with intent to take action against national security’. Evidence against her reportedly includes staging sit-ins, conducting educational classes and ‘defaming’ the governor of Evin prison by asserting that that prison guards had used verbal abuse, death threats and beatings against inmates. She faces an additional five yearsin prison and 74 lashes.

Mohammadi suffers from a neurological disorder that can result in seizures, temporary partial paralysis, and a pulmonary embolism – a blood clot in her lung for which she is said to be denied essential medication that could prevent further clots forming.  In May 2019 she underwent an emergency hysterectomy after which she was returned to Evin Prison. In June 2019, PEN received reports that Narges Mohammadi was being denied adequate medical care and antibiotics to treat a subsequent infection resulting from the surgery.

As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold in Iran, its spread in prisons became a key concern and led in March 2020 to the release on furlough of over 85,000 prisoners. However, many political prisoners, including Mohammadi, remain imprisoned. Then on 13 July, in a letter from prison published by her family, she describes suffering COVID-19 symptoms, adding that other inmates had also contracted the virus. After pressure from her family, Mohammadi was given a COVID test on 8 July but the authorities have reportedly refused to disclose the results.

Narges Mohammadi has written for various reformist journals, among these Payam-e Hajar which was later banned for its articles promoting the rights of all, regardless of gender, religious or political affiliation. She is the author of political essays, including Reforms, strategy and tacticsShe is married to the prominent journalist Taghi Rahmani, who spent a total of 17 years in prison then fled Iran for France in May 2011 where he now lives in exile with the couple’s teenage twins. Mohammadi has been denied telephone calls from her children for over a year. 

Narges Mohammadi was an awardee of the 2013 PEN/Oxfam Novib Free Expression Award.

UK: Release WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange

For Julian Assange’s 49th birthday, PEN Norway with the Courage Foundation, PEN International, English PEN, German PEN, PEN Melbourne, PEN Perth, Sydney PEN and other civil society organisations sent an open letter calling for the release of WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange.
Photo by Babak Fakhamzadeh CC BY 2.0

Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP
Secretary of State for Justice and Lord Chancellor
Ministry of Justice
102 Petty France
London
SW1H 9AJ

CC: Rt Hon Dominic Raab, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

3 July 2020

Dear Rt Hon Robert Buckland QC MP,

On 8 June 2020, responding to a question in the House of Lords about the United Kingdom’s stance regarding the protection of journalists and press freedoms, Minister of State Lord Ahmad
of Wimbledon said, “Media freedom is vital to open societies. Journalists must be able to investigate and report without undue interference”.

We, the undersigned, agree with this statement and call on the UK government to uphold its commitment to press freedom in its own country. At the time of Lord Ahmad’s remarks,
WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange had been imprisoned on remand in the high-security HMP Belmarsh for more than a year as he faces extradition to the United States on charges of publishing. We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange from prison immediately and to block his extradition to the US.

The US government has indicted Mr Assange on 18 counts for obtaining, possessing, conspiring to publish and for publishing classified information. The indictment contains 17 counts under the
Espionage Act of 1917 and one charge of conspiring (with a source) to violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, which uses Espionage Act language. This is the first ever use of such charges for the publication of truthful information in the public interest, and it represents a gravely dangerous attempt to criminalise journalist-source communications and the publication by journalists of classified information, regardless of the newsworthiness of the information and in complete disregard of the public’s right to know.

On 24 June 2020, the US Department of Justice issued a second superseding indictment against Mr Assange, adding no new charges but expanding on the charge for conspiracy to commit computer intrusion. This new indictment employs a selective and misleading narrative in an attempt to portray Mr Assange’s actions as nefarious and conspiratorial rather than as contributions to public interest reporting.

The charges against Mr Assange carry a potential maximum sentence of 175 years in prison.
Sending Mr Assange to the US, where a conviction is a near certainty, is tantamount to a death sentence.

This is an unprecedented escalation of an already disturbing assault on journalism in the US, where President Donald Trump has referred to the news media as the “enemy of the people”.
Whereas previous presidents have prosecuted whistleblowers and other journalistic sources under the Espionage Act for leaking classified information, the Trump Administration has taken the further step of going after the publisher.

Mr Assange himself has been persecuted for publishing for nearly a decade. In 2012, with fears of a US prosecution that later proved prescient, Mr Assange sought and was granted asylum from the government of Ecuador, and he entered the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Because the UK declined to guarantee Mr Assange wouldn’t be extradited to the US, the United Nations’ Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ruled that Mr Assange’s detention was indeed arbitrary and called on the UK to “immediately [allow] Wikileaks founder Julian Assange to walk free from the Ecuadorian embassy in London”.

President Obama’s administration prosecuted US Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning for disclosing hundreds of thousands of documents to WikiLeaks on the US’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as State Department cables and files on inmates at the Guantanamo Bay prison. But the administration, which had empanelled a Grand Jury investigation into WikiLeaks as early as 2010, explicitly decided not to prosecute Mr Assange due to what it termed the “New York Times problem.” As the Washington Post explained in November 2013, “If the Justice Department indicted Assange, it would also have to prosecute the New York Times and other news organizations and writers who published classified material, including The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper”.

When President Trump came to power, then-Attorney General of the US Jeff Sessions announced that prosecuting Assange would be a “priority”, despite the fact that no new evidence or information had come to light in the case. In April 2017, in a startling speech against
WikiLeaks’ constitutional right to publish, then-CIA director Mike Pompeo declared WikiLeaks a “non-state hostile intelligence service” and said, “Julian Assange has no First Amendment
privileges”.

On 11 April 2019, Ecuador illegally terminated Mr Assange’s diplomatic asylum in violation of the Geneva Refugee Convention and invited the British police into their embassy, where he was
immediately arrested at the request of the US. Mr Assange served a staggering 50 weeks in prison for a bail violation, but when that sentence ended in September 2019, he was not released.
Mr Assange continues to be detained at HMP Belmarsh, now solely at the behest of the US.
Even before the lockdown initiated by the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Assange has been held in conditions approaching solitary confinement, confined to his cell more than 22 hours a day. Now
under containment measures, Mr Assange is even more isolated, and he hasn’t seen his own children in several months. Furthermore, Mr Assange has been allowed extremely limited access to his lawyers and documents, severely hampering his ability to participate in his own legal defence. Following a visit to HMP Belmarsh accompanied by medical doctors in May 2019, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Nils Melzer determined that Mr Assange had endured psychological torture.

Mr Assange’s extradition hearing, which commenced for one week in February 2020 and is scheduled to continue for three more weeks, is set to resume in September. But the coronavirus, which has reportedly already killed at least one fellow inmate at HMP Belmarsh and which continues to spread through prisons at an alarming rate, puts the health and well-being of Mr Assange, who suffers from a chronic lung condition that makes him especially vulnerable to Covid-19, at serious risk.

The continued persecution of Mr Assange is contributing to a deterioration of press freedom in the UK and is serving to tarnish the UK’s international image. Reporters Without Borders cited the disproportionate sentencing of Mr Assange to 50 weeks in prison for breaking bail, the Home Office’s decision to greenlight the US extradition request, and Mr Assange’s continued detention as factors in the UK’s decline in ranking to 35th out of 180 countries in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

We call on the UK government to release Mr Assange without further delay and block his extradition to the US – a measure that could save Mr Assange’s life and preserve the press freedom that the UK has committed to championing globally.

Signed:
Nathan Fuller, Executive Director, Courage Foundation
Rebecca Vincent, Director of International Campaigns, Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech
Anthony Bellanger, General Secretary – International Federation of Journalists (IFJ)
Archie Law, Chair Sydney Peace Foundation
Carles Torner, Executive Director, PEN International
Christine McKenzie, President, PEN Melbourne
Daniel Gorman, Director, English PEN
Kjersti Løken Stavrum, President, PEN Norway
Lasantha De Silva, Freed Media Movement
Marcus Strom, President, MEAA Media, Australia
Mark Isaacs, President of PEN International Sydney
Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)
Mousa Rimawi, Director, MADA – the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms
Naomi Colvin, UK/Ireland Programme Director, Blueprint for Free Speech
Nora Wehofsits, Advocacy Officer, European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
Peter Tatchell, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Ralf Nestmeyer, Vice President, German PEN
Rev Tim Costello AO, Director of Ethical Voice
Robert Wood, Chair, PEN Perth
Ruth Smeeth, Chief Executive Officer, Index on Censorship
Sarah Clarke, Head of Europe and Central Asia, ARTICLE 19
Silkie Carlo, Director, Big Brother Watch
William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative, Association of European Journalists
Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa)
Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain (ADHRB)

#freejulianassange #dontextraditeassange #happybirthdayjulian

2020 Cuba: Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces

Den cubanske journalisten, poeten og advokaten Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces må løslates fra fengsel, krever Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere.
Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces

Sr. Miguel Díaz-Canel
Hidalgo
Esquina 6. Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana CP 10400
Cuba

Dear Mr. President,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern for the health of poet, lawyer and independent journalist Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces. He was detained and beaten by state agents on April 22nd 2019 while covering a trial for the news website CubaNet. Quiñones Haces was reportedly released five days later and fined for conduct during his detention, which they alleged, constituted ‘disobedience’ and ‘resistance.’

After refusing to pay the fine, Quiñones Haces was sentenced to one year in prison in August 7th 2019. Although he did present evidence in favour of his case and requested a new trial, the Court rejected both the evidence and the request for a new trial and on September 11th 2019, Quiñones was detained.

During his imprisonment, 63 years old Quiñones Haces has developed health problems due to the conditions of detention. He is particularly at risk from Covid-19, and is, according to his family, currently being detained in a small prison cell with at least 17 other prisoners. He has also reported being threatened because of his articles and letters.

We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces.

On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee,

Alexander Leborg
author and translator

 

2020 Aserbajdsjan: Elchin Mammad

We call on the Azerbaijani authorities to free reporter and lawyer Elchin Mammad.
Elchin Mammad. Photo: Elchin Mammad’s Facebook page.

President of Azerbaijan
Ilham Aliyev

19 Istiqlaliyyat Street
Baku AZ1066
Azerbaijan


PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee hereby urge Azerbaijani authorities to immediately and unconditionally release reporter and lawyer Elchin Mammad.

Human rights lawyer and journalist Mammad was arrested in his home on March 30th, only days after he published a critical report on the human rights’ situation in Azerbaijan. He was arrested on alleged charges of jewellery theft.

Elchin Mammad has faced harassment and intimidation by the authorities several times in the past. This prosecution fits a pattern of targeting critical voices with politically motivated arrests on spurious charges. We believe that Mammad’s recent arrest and detention is politically motivated. We worry for his situation and his health in regards to imprisonment during the covid-19 outbreak.

We therefore ask that you immediately release Elchin Mammad.

We furthermore call on Azerbaijani authorities to stop the persecution of journalists and human rights defenders, and to immediately release all those held in prison for having exercised their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Yours sincerely,

Mari Moen Holsve

Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

2020 Myanmar: Saw Wai

We call on Myanmar to drop all charges against the poet and PEN member Saw Wai immediately.
Drop all charges against Saw Wai.

To
U Win Myint
President of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar
President’s Office
Naypyitaw, Myanmar

Oslo, March 15th, 2020

Dear
President U Win Myint,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned by the ongoing prosecution of poet and PEN member, Saw Wai, who stands accused of defaming the military under Section 505(a) of the Penal Code, after speaking at an event in Kaw Thaung township, in the Tanintharyi region of Southwestern Myanmar. If convicted, he could face up to two years in prison. PEN International believes that Saw Wai is being targeted solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls for the charges against him to be dropped.

I have myself met Saw Wai several times and he is an outstanding poet that Myanmar should be proud of. He has been important for the democratization of Myanmar together with NLD and should not be in prison but honored by the government.

Therefore, we are

  • Calling on the Myanmar authorities to drop the charges laid against Saw Wai immediately and unconditionally;
  • Calling for all laws that impose unlawful restrictions on the right to freedom of expression in Myanmar to be repealed or amended in line with international human rights standards;
  • Urging the immediate ratification of international human rights treaties to which Myanmar is not yet a party, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
PEN Norway

Copy:

The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of Myanmar in Norway

2019 Uganda: Stella Nyanzi

PEN International and The Norwegian PEN Writers in Prison Committee call for the immediate release of Dr Stella Nyanzi, and for her sentence to be overturned.

Dr Nyanzi was convicted and sentenced to 18 months in prison for ‘cyber harassment’ under the Computer Misuse Act (2011), when in fact she published a poem on Facebook that criticised Uganda’s President. PEN believe Dr Nyanzi was exercising her right to freedom of expression and urge the authorities to quash her sentence and release her immediately and unconditionally.

We furthermore urge for the Computer Misuse Act to be repealed, or amended to ensure full conformity with freedom of expression in Uganda. The Act has been used to clamp down on dissent, as the case of Dr Stella Nyanzi clearly shows, and it is cause for concern, as it will make people more afraid to express themselves online.

The United Nations Human Right Committee, which oversees the implementation of The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCCPR), has made it clear that the ‘mere fact that forms of expression are considered to be insulting to a public figure is not sufficient to justify the imposition of penalties’.

We therefore urge the authorities in Uganda to immediately and unconditionally release Dr Stella Nyanzi, overturn her sentence and repeal or amend the Computer Misuse Act.

On behalf of Norwegian PEN Writers in Prison Committee,
Mari Moen Holsve

2019 Kirgisistan: Azimjon Askarov

On 30 July 2019, a court in northern Kyrgyzstan upheld the life sentence of journalist and human rights activist Azimjon Askarov.  A member of Kyrgyzstan’s Uzbek minority, Askarov (68) spent his career exposing corruption. He was arrested on 15 June 2010 during the inter-ethnic conflict that swept Osh and Jalal-Abad provinces in southern Kyrgyzstan, during which hundreds of people were killed. On 15 September 2010, Azimjon Askarov was found guilty of instigating ethnic hatred, inciting disorder and being complicit in the murder of a police officer. In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Committee found that Azimjon Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, tortured, mistreated, and prevented from adequately preparing his defence as well as being denied treatment for serious medical conditions. In the following letter, the Norwegian PEN Writers in Prison Committee calls for his immediate and unconditional release.
**************************************************************************

President of Kyrgyzstan
His Excellency Almazbek Atambayev
Office of the President
Chuy Avenue 205
72003 Bishek
Republic of Kyrgyzstan

Your Excellency,

Norwegian PEN is urgently concerned about the health and welfare of journalist and human rights defender Azimjon Askarov, who was arrested in June 2010 and remains in prison, where he is serving a life sentence on charges of organising mass disorder and complicity in the murder of a police officer.

The UN Human Rights Committee declared in March 2016 that Askarov had been arbitrarily detained, tortured, mistreated and prevented from adequately preparing his defence, in addition to being denied treatment for serious medical conditions.

It was with grave concern Norwegian PEN learned that Askarov’s life sentence was upheld yet again 30th July this year. We call on Kyrgyzstan’s authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Askarov, overturn his conviction and investigate his allegations of torture fully and impartially.

Anyone found responsible for violating Askarov’s rights should be brought to justice, and Askarov granted adequate redress for any such violations, including, but not limited to, an enforceable right to compensation for any form of torture he is found to have been subjected to.

Yours sincerely,

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

COPY:
Prosecutor General Indira Djoldubaeva
Botschaft der Kirgisischen Republik in der BRD
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs