2019 Azerbaijan: Rashad Ramazanov

Writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov ended his hunger strike. His family, who visited him in prison in Baku on 24 January 2019, said he remains in poor health. He is still protesting against his continuous detention on politically-motivated grounds. Rashad Ramazanov was arrested almost six years ago and sentenced to nine years in prison on fabricated charges of illegal possession and sale of drugs. PEN is deeply concerned for his health and continues to call for his immediate and unconditional release.

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan
Mr. Ilham Aliyev

Your Excellency,

Norwegian PEN has been informed that writer and blogger Rashad Ramazanov has been on hunger strike and still is in poor health. We have followed his case for several years, and want to express our serious concern for his well-being.

Rashad Ramazanov is one of several Azerbaijani prisoners, activists and opposition figures who went on hunger strike in solidarity with jailed anti-corruption blogger Mehman Huseynov, against whom the Azerbaijani authorities brought new spurious charges in December 2018, just weeks before his scheduled release. Rashad Ramazanov has also been held in prison on politically motivated grounds. He was arrested almost six years ago and sentenced to nine years in prison on fabricated charges of drug possession and drug sale.

To keep people in detention on politically motivated charges is against the Azerbaijani authorities’ obligations under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Azerbaijani authorities’ attempts to bring new charges against unjustly imprisoned critics in order to detain them longer is a violation of the right to freedom of expression. We call on you to unconditionally release all those arbitrarily detained.

Norwegian PEN stand together with PEN International in the call for Rashad Ramazanovs immediate and unconditional release. Pending his release, he should be provided with adequate medical care.

Oslo, 25th of January, 2019

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2019 Egypt: Ibrahim al-Husseini

The situation for freedom of expression and opinion in Egypt has deteriorated sharply since the arrival of President al-Sisi into power in 2014. Many journalists and writers have been arrested or forced to flee the country. One of them, Ibrahim al-Husseini, 63 years old, is a writer and activist. He is the author of short stories including his latest collection entitled Leil which is published by the Supreme Council for Culture in Egypt. In his articles, al-Husseini criticized both dictatorships and religious extremism in Egypt. Al-Husseini has been defending social justice since the 1970s. Due to his peaceful activities and critical writing, he was previously subjected to arrests and detentions. He was again arrested in the early morning of 9 December 2018. On 23 December 2018, the State Security Prosecution ordered al-Husseini’s pre-trial detention for 15 days on a charge of “inciting a demonstration”. Al-Husseini’s pre-trial detention has been renewed on 5 January 2019 for another 15 days. PEN believes that the charge against al-Husseini is politically motivated, and calls for his immediate and unconditional release, and for him to be provided with adequate medical care. We also call on the Egyptian authorities to free all those held solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association.

*************************************************************************

President
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,
Office of the President,
Al-Ittihadia Palace,
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

January 8th 2019

Your Excellency,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee hereby urge you to unconditionally release Ibrahim al-Husseini from prison and drop all charges against him.

Al-Husseini was arrested at his home in Cairo in December 2018 and we have reason to believe this was due to social media posts he wrote about events in Egypt and France. Al-Husseini suffers from several serious health problems, which require regular medical care.

We are very concerned with his situation and his health and hope you will ensure that he is properly taken care of, pending his release, and additionally that he gets full access to family visits and legal representation.

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee urge you to remember that al-Husseini was merely executing his right to freedom of expression. This right should be respected and is in accordance with the Egyptian Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.

We urge you to immediately and unconditionally release Ibrahim al-Husseini and drop all charges against him, and to free anyone else held solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and association.

Yours sincerely,

Mari Moen Holsve
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Egyptian Embassy in Norway

2019 Tyrkia: Nedim Türfent

‘No matter what the price or consequence might be, we will never compromise from the magical creations of writing and of the written word. We would like to repeat once again our gratitude to PEN members, who have stood by us on this path.’ Nedim Türfent

A news editor and reporter at the pro-Kurdish Dicle News Agency (DİHA), Nedim Türfent was arrested on 12 May 2016 after covering clashes between the Turkish army and the armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of Turkey. Nedim Türfent spent nearly two years in solidarity confinement, during which time he was transferred to several prisons. In a letter addressed to Turkish columnists and dated 8 May 2017, he reported harrowing detention conditions in his four-meter-long prison cell, where he was denied access to TV, radio, books or newspapers and forced to read ‘the back of detergent boxes’ to pass time. He was formally charged with ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’ 10 months after his arrest. Despite clear evidence of flagrant fair trial violations, Nedim Türfent was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison for ‘membership of a terrorist organisation’ and ‘spreading terrorist propaganda’ on 15 December 2017. While waiting for a ruling on his case, Nedim Türfent spends his time studying Turkish, English and German and writing poetry.

In an open letter to the Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül, Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee urges the Turkish authorities to release Nedim Türfent immediately and unconditionally.

*****************************************************

Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gül
Ministry of Justice
Adalet Bakanlığı
06659 Ankara
Turkey

Oslo, 5th of January, 2019

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you on behalf of Norwegian PENs Committee for Writers in Prison.

On the 15th of December 2018 it was one year since news editor and reporter, Nedim Türfent, was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison on trumped-up terrorism charges following an unfair trial, during which scores of witnesses said they had been tortured into testifying against him. Prior to his arrest in 2016, Nedim Türfent was covering Turkish military operations in southeast Turkey. He spent almost two years in solidarity confinement in harrowing detention conditions. His sentence was upheld on the 19th of June 2018 and his lawyers have lodged an appeal before the Constitutional Court. Determined to keep writing, Nedim Türfent started composing poetry while detained.

Norwegian PEN believes that Nedim Türfent is being imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and calls for his immediate and unconditional release.

We are also calling on the Turkish authorities to end the prosecution and detention of journalists simply on the basis of the content of their writing or alleged affiliations, and to immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression.

Yours sincerely,

Øivind Hånes
author

Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Turkish Embassy in Oslo

2018: Egypt: Wael Abbas

Egyptian blogger and political activist Wael Abbas has been detained on charges connected to terrorist activities and spreading false news. Norwegian PEN believes that the charges against Abbas’ are related to his peaceful activism and writings critical of the Egyptian government.

 

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi
Office of the President
Al-Ittihadia Palace
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt

Your Excellency,

Norwegian PEN is deeply concerned about the detention of  the blogger and political activist Wael Abbas, who has been arbitrary detained since his arrest on 24 May 2018.

Abbas has been accused of “joining a terrorist group in realizing its objectives”, “spreading false news damaging public security and public interest” and using social media to spread ideas inciting to commit terrorist acts”. According to reports, Abbas’s file has been included in the judicial case No. 441 of 2018, which also includes journalists and activists such as Mostafa al-Asar, Hassan al-Banna and Ezzat Ghoneim who is a lawyer and the head of the Egyptian Coordination for Rights and Freedoms. Abbas remains detained at Tora prison pending the investigation.

PEN International believes that the charges against Abbas’ are related to his peaceful activism and writings critical of the Egyptian government.  Norwegian PEN will call for his immediate and unconditional release and for all charges against him to be dropped.

We ask Egyptian authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of expression in Egypt is fully respected in law and practice in accordance with the Egyptian Constitution and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party.

 

Yous sincerely,

Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

 

Copy:
The Egyptian Embassy in Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Minister of Justice Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar

2018: Bangladesh: Shahidul Alam

Photographer and writer Shahidul Alam was arrested, accused of “making provocative comments” and “giving false information to media. Norwegian PEN believes he was arrested for having criticised the government’s handling of student-led protests about road safety.

Prime Minister
Sheikh Hasina
Old Sangsad Bhaban
Tejgaon, Dhaka-1215

Oslo 14th November 2018

Dear Prime Minister,

Norwegian PEN is urgently concerned about the welfare of photographer and writer Shahidul Alam, who is being held in detention with deteriorating health.

Alam was forcibly taken from his home by plainclothes police officers during the night of 5th August 2018 and brought before a lower court in Dhaka the next day, where he was accused of “making provocative comments” and “giving false information to media, contrary to section 57 of the Information and Communication Technology Act of 2006, as amended (ICT Act).” If convicted Alam faces up to 14 years in prison.

The arrest and accusations came shortly after Alam gave an interview to Al Jazeera in which he criticised the government’s handling of student-led protests about road safety. Norwegian PEN has reason to believe he is being kept in detention solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

As a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Bangladeshi authorities have an obligation to secure the right to freedom of expression including peaceful criticism of political authorities under Article 19.

Norwegian PEN calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Shahidul Alam, and for an independent investigation to be held into the allegations of torture, in which those found responsible are brought to justice.

Yours sincerely,

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

 

Copy:

Minister of Home Affairs Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal
Inspector General of Police Mohammad Javed Patwary
Sahidur Rahman, Honorary Consul, Bangladeshi Honorary Consulate in Oslo
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

2018 Saudi Arabia: Marwan Almuraisy

PEN International and Norwegian PEN condemns the arrest and enforced disappearance of Yemeni writer and social media activist Marwan Almuraisy, who was arrested at his home in Riyadh by Saudi National Security agents on 1 June 2018. It is not known where he is being detained. To date, Almuraisy’s family have been denied information about the charges against him, the location where he is being held and are unable to visit him. The Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee has written the following letter to the Saudi authorities, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Almuraisy:

******************************************
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques Office of His Majesty
The King Royal Court, Riyadh
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Oslo, 11th October 2018

Your Majesty,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern about the arrest and enforced disappearance of Yemeni writer and social media activist Marwan Almuraisy, who was arrested at his home in Riyadh by Saudi National Security agents on the 1th of June 2018. It is not known where he is being detained. To date, Almuraisy’s family have been denied information about the charges against him, the location where he is being held and are unable to visit him.

We are deeply concerned about Almuraisy’s safety and physical well-being and believes that his arrest is solely related to the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression. We call on the Saudi authorities to immediately release Marwan Almuraisy. At the very least, we urge them to disclose Almuraisy’s whereabouts, the reason for his detention, and to respect his rights as a detainee to legal representation, family visits and medical care.

We also call for the immediate and unconditional release of all other writers currently detained in Saudi Arabia in connection with the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance to international standards including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Yours sincerely,

Øivind Hånes
author
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
The Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia, Oslo

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: Russland: Oleg Sentsov

Accused of terrorism, writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov has been sentenced to 20 years imprisonment. He has not had a fair trial and it is believed he has been subjected to torture.

 

 

June 3rd 2018

 

Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation
Tatiana Nikolaevna Moskalkova
ul. Miasnitskaia, 47
107084, Moscow
RUSSIAN FEDERATION

To whom it may concern,

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

Oleg Sentsov was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison by a Russian military court, accused of terrorism. We fear that Sentsov was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Should there in fact be grounds for prosecution, these should be heard by a civil court under Ukrainian law.

Sentsov has been on a hunger strike since May 14th 2018 and we have reason to believe that he has been subjected to torture.

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee strongly urge you to respect Oleg Sentsov’s human rights, including his right to a fair trial, the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment as it pertains to hunger strike and his right to medical attention.

We also call upon Russian authorities to return all Ukrainian nationals arrested in Crimea and now held in Russia to Ukraine, and free all held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

 

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

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