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We furthermore urge for the Computer Misuse Act to be repealed, or amended to ensure full conformity with freedom of expression in Uganda.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.
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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

2019 Australia: Behrouz Boochani

On World Refugee Day, Norwegian PEN and PEN International calls upon the Australian government and international community to respect the rights of award-winning writer, film-maker and journalist Behrouz Boochani and the world’s most vulnerable refugees by providing adequate protection and more resettlement places. Six years after being forcibly transferred to Manus Island, Behrouz Boochani remains stranded on Manus Island, Papua New Guinea. With his pen and camera Behrouz Boochani has shone a light on the horror, cruelty and injustice of Australian state policy towards refugees and asylum seekers. Writers, journalists and all people fleeing for their lives have the right to ask the international community for a safe place to make a new home.

On behalf of Norwegian PEN’s Writers in Prison Committee, Jørgen Lorentzen has written the following letter to the Prime Minister of Australia:

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To
Hon. Scott Morrison MP,
Prime Minister of Australia,
PO Box 6022, House of Representatives, Parliament House,
Canberra ACT 2600, Australia

Oslo, June 20th, 2019

Dear Hon. Scott Morrison,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is deeply concerned about the situation of Behrouz Boochani. Boochani is a Kurdish Iranian journalist, award-winning writer and film-maker. We ask you to make resettlement arrangements for Boochani and all other migrants and asylum seekers currently located on Manus Island and Nauru, in line with international law.

We also ask you to ensure that detention is a matter of last resort in cases where there are reasonable concerns for public safety or that the migrant may abscond, and  to inform detained migrants and asylum seekers in writing, in a language that they understand, of the reason for their detention, its duration, their right to have access to a lawyer, their right to promptly challenge their detention and their right to seek asylum.

It is important to ensure that migrants and asylum seekers have access to adequate medical care – including mental health services – adequate food, cloths, hygienic conditions.

Lastly, please end the criminalisation of criticism of Australia’s asylum procedures which amounts to a restriction of freedom of expression.

Yours sincerely,

Jørgen Lorentzen
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

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

2019 Iran: Narges Mohammadi

Journalist, menneskerettighetsforkjemper og Norsk PENs æresmedlem Narges Mohammadi er akutt syk, men får ikke nødvendig medinsk tilsyn og behandling i Evin-fengselet, der hun soner en dom på seks år – utelukkende på grunn av sitt arbeid for menneskerettigheter og demokrati i Iran. Øivind Hånes i Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere krever i sitt brev til iranske myndigheter at Narges Mohammadi umiddelbart får den livreddende medisinske behandlingen hun behøver, og at hun løslates uten betingelser.

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President of the Islamic Republic of Iran
Hassan Rouhani
Oslo, 6th of June 2019

Dear Mr. President,

Norwegian PEN is deeply concerned for the health and wellbeing of prominent journalist and human rights defender Narges Mohammadi who is currently in Evin prison, serving a six-year prison sentence for her human rights activities. In prison, she has developed a serious infection as a result of the conditions of her detention. In May 2019, following a sharp deterioration in her health, the prison authorities transferred Mohammadi to a hospital where she underwent an emergency hysterectomy. However, after surgery Mohammadi was immediately transferred back to Evin prison where she is denied necessary medication including antibiotics. Consequently, Mohammadi’s surgery wounds have become infected, and the infection has entered her bloodstream. She urgently requires medical care and medicines including antibiotics.

Narges Mohammadi was first arrested in June 2010 before being released on bail pending trial. On 26 September 2011 she was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘gathering and colluding with intent to harm national security’, one year in prison for ‘spreading propaganda against the system’ and 10 years for ‘founding and running an illegal organisation’ for her work with Legam, advocating against the death penalty. She remained free on bail and the sentence was reduced to six years on appeal in April 2012, when she was summoned to serve out her sentence. Mohammadi’s health has sharply declined as a result of her imprisonment. She recently published an open letter where she powerfully describes the prison conditions which have led to her severe health problems.

Norwegian PEN is expressing serious concern for the health of Narges Mohammadi, urging the authorities to permit her access to all necessary medical care as a matter of urgency. We are calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Narges Mohammadi and all those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression. We are also demanding a full investigation into reports that Mohammadi is being ill-treated and denied adequate medical care in prison.

Yours sincerely,

Mr Øivind Hånes
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Embassy of Iran, Oslo

Nordic PEN statement on Nasrin Sotudeh

A joint statement of Nordic PEN centres on Iran: Drop charges against human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh

A statement by four Nordic PEN Centres, 16 March 2019

Danish, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish PEN centres are gravely concerned for the well-being of Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh, who was handed over a total 38 years in jail and 148 lashes in national security-related offences. Ms Sotoudeh, an award-winning human rights defender and an Honorary Member of PEN Finland, is known for her role as a defender of rights of women detained for refusing mandatory covering of their hair in public. She was arrested in June 2018 for defending women prosecuted for appearing in public without a headscarf, or hijab. She was charged with spreading propaganda against the state, insulting the country’s supreme leader and spying.

We are appalled by the wrongful conviction of Sotoudeh. We condemn the ruling not only as a grave violation of rights of the lawyer in question, but also for the fact that it raises questions on the judicial process itself. The crackdown on dissenting voices in Iran is a direct violation of the principles of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party.

Defending human rights is not a crime
Lawyers such as Nasrin Sotoudeh are doing priceless human rights work by representing suppressed voices in a time of veiled judicial crackdown on civil society in Iran. She is a symbol of civil courage. The mother of two, she was also arrested in 2010 and handed over a sentence of 11 years of imprisonment in 2011 on similar charges. She was released in 2013 under growing international condemnation. Since the revolution of 1979, Iran’s powerful clergy establishment remained in control of the state. Arrests, tortures and enforced disappearances of dissidents have become a pattern in Iran in recent years. The sentencing of Sotoudeh is a clear manifestation that Iranian judicial machinery, dominated by hardliners, has become an instrument of the ultra-conservative clergy that suppress dissident voices.

We, the Nordic PEN centres, stand with Nasrin Sotoudeh’s right to freedom of expression as enshrined in international charters and various global conventions.

We urge Iranian authorities to:
Ensure that the arbitrary charges against Nasrin Sotoudeh are dropped and she gets immediate and unconditional release;

  1. Ensure that she, without delay, has regular and unrestricted access to her family and lawyers of her own choosing; that she has an effective opportunity to appeal the verdict and that she receives all necessary medical treatment;
  2. Immediately release all writers, journalists and human rights defenders who are under trial for expressing their legitimate rights to freedom of expression;
  3. Uphold the independence of the judiciary;
  4. Investigate all allegations of torture and ill-treatment during detention;
  5. Put an end to acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against all human rights defenders in Iran. Conform in any circumstances with the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted on December 9, 1998 by United Nations General Assembly.

    We urge our governments, Nordic Council, European Union, the United Nations and others to:

  1. Scrutinize Iran’s attack on dissident voices and put pressure on Iranian government to ensure release of country’s imprisoned human rights defenders including Nasrin Sotoudeh;
  2. Press Iranian government to respect rights of women and adhere to its obligations to international covenants, conventions and treaties in which Iran is a state party;
  3. Use their leverage to press Iranian government to affect changes.

    Sincerely,

    Veera Tyhtilä
    President of Finnish PEN

    Jesper Bengtsson
    President of Swedish PEN

    William Nygaard
    President of Norwegian PEN

    Per Øhrgaard
    President of Danish PEN

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.

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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.

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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 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:

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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