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.

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

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

Norsk PEN til stede på årets Film fra Sør-festival

Det er bare noen dager igjen til festivalen Film fra Sør starter i Oslo, og i forbindelse med visningene av tre av årets filmer, inviterer Norsk PEN og Film fra Sør til følgende arrangementer:

Lørdag 10. november kl. 17:30-19:30, Vika kino:
Visning av filmen «The Cleaners», som følger fem såkalte «content moderators» fra Filippinene, som hver dag vurderer tusenvis av bilder og videoer lagt ut på Facebook, Twitter og YouTube. Etter filmen blir det diskusjon om det etiske, moralske og juridiske ansvaret internettgigantene har – og eventuelt burde ha – for vår tids debattklima. Til samtalen kommer forskningsleder for gruppa Politikk, Demokrati og Sivilsamfunn ved Institutt for samfunnsforskning, Kari Steen-Johnsen, og forsker, IT-gründer og lektor i informatikk på UiO, Gisle Hannemyr. Samtalen ledes av Elisabeth Eide, leder for JMIC-Journalism and Media International Center på OsloMet.
Mer informasjon: https://www.facebook.com/events/316226965629033/

Mandag 12. november kl. 17:45-19:45, Vika kino:
Visning av filmen «Rafiki», om to unge jenter, Kena og Ziki, som er døtre av to politiske rivaler og som møtes og forelsker seg i hverandre. Dermed risikerer de ikke bare lang fengselsstraff og sosial utestengelse, men står også i fare for å bli utsatt for vold og overgrep. Filmen er forbudt i hjemlandet Kenya. Etter visningen deltar regissør Wanuri Kahiu i en samtale sammen med kunstner og samfunnsdebattant Ahmed Umar om situasjonen for skeive miljøer i land i Sør og den globale kampen for skeives rettigheter. Samtalen ledes av Nisrin Maktabi Barkouki fra Norsk PEN.
Mer informasjon: https://www.facebook.com/events/176106656644290/

Torsdag 15. november kl. 19:30-21:30, Vika kino:
Visning av filmen «Stronger Than a Bullet».  Saeid Sadeghi, filmens hovedkarakter og fortellerstemme, var Irans mest kjente krigsfotograf under krigen mot Irak fra 1980 til 1988. Hans sterke og ladede bilder fra Iran/ Irak-krigen på 1980-tallet ble brukt som propaganda og rekrutterings-verktøy av det iranske regimet. Sadeghi var selv regimetilhenger, men i dag er han en angrende mann og holder seg selv ansvarlig for å ha sendt tusenvis av soldater i døden. Noen av dem helt ned i 13-årsalderen. «Stronger Than a Bullet» tar oss med på Sadeghis personlige reise for å mane frem minner og mennesker fra krigens dager. Det er en sterk og velredigert film om en fallen helt, om nasjonalisme, ideologi, propaganda og ikke minst om bildets makt. Etter filmen samtaler regissør Maryam Ebrahimi og Amir Mirzai (forfatter og leder for Rumi-festivalen) om propaganda, om bildets makt, og hva filmen kan fortelle oss om dagens situasjon i Iran og regionen for øvrig. Samtalen ledes av førsteamanuensis ved Høyskolen i Kristiania, Sharam Alghasi.
Mer informasjon: https://www.facebook.com/events/2075731322472250/

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

18. oktober 2018: Fengslende karikaturer

Tegnerne Ali Dorani (kjent som ”Eaten Fish”), Arifur Rahman og Fadi Abou Hassan har alle opplevd fengsling og forfølgelse på grunn av sine visuelle ytringer.

Nå bor de tre i henholdsvis Stavanger og Drøbak, to av de mange norske fribyene som gir beskyttelse til forfulgte forfattere, journalister og kunstnere. Norsk PENs komité for fengslede forfattere inviterer til et møte med dem og den norske karikaturtegneren Marvin Halleraker, for å snakke om det visuelle som uttrykk for ytringsfrihet.

Hør deres historier, se tegningene. Og vi spør: Hvorfor ytre seg visuelt? Hvilke konsekvenser kan det få? Og hvordan kan vi sikre de modige karikaturtegningene i framtiden?

Kveldens samtaleleder er Kjersti Løken Stavrum, nestleder i Norsk PEN.

Arrangementet er gratis og finner sted på Litteraturhuset i Oslo, Nedjma (3. etasje), torsdag 18. oktober kl. 19.00.

Velkommen!

Arrangementet er støttet av Stiftelsen Fritt Ord, Norsk Oversetterforening, Norske Barne- og Ungdomsbokforfattere og Norsk faglitterær forfatter- og oversetterforening

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

Om de medvirkende:

Ali Dorani fra Iran begynte å tegne for å dokumentere forholdene på Manus Island, hvor han satt internert som asylsøker i fire år. Arifur Rahman fra Bangladesh ble fengslet og forfulgt for å ha laget en tegneseriestripe som illustrerer en vits om en katt. Fadi Abou Hassan, palestiner oppvokst i Syria, har blitt både fengslet og prisbelønnet for sine karikaturtegninger der han kritiserer verdensledere og politiske forhold, særlig i Midtøsten. Marvin Halleraker er en av Norges fremste avistegnere, og leverer faste bidrag til bl.a. Morgenbladet, Bergens Tidene og Aftenposten. Kjersti Løken Stavrum har tidligere jobbet som journalist og redaktør i mange år, vært og er i dag administrerende redaktør for Stiftelsen Tinius.

Arrangør er Norsk PENs Komité for fengslede forfattere, som har tatt initiativ til en serie arrangementer med hovedformål å presentere utenlandske forfattere, journalister og andre ytrere, som lever og arbeider i Norge. Komiteen består av medlemmer fra Norsk PEN, Den norske Forfatterforening, Norsk Oversetterforening, Norske Barne og Ungdomsbokforfattere og Norsk faglitterær forfatter- og oversetterforening.

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