Posts Tagged ‘acquittal’

Acquitted journalist Santosh Yadav about his ordeal in India

January 10, 2020

In a blog post by Kunal Majumder, CPJ India Correspondent on 8 January 2020, Indian freelance journalist Santosh Yadav says “I feel like a weight has been lifted’ as Chhattisgarh court ends four-year legal nightmare.

Freelance journalist Santosh Yadav, left, with human rights defender Shalini Gera and CPJ India Correspondent Kunal Majumder, during a convention on journalist safety in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, in February 2019. A court on January 2 acquitted Yadav of several charges, ending a four-year legal battle. (CPJ)

Freelance journalist Santosh Yadav, left, with human rights defender Shalini Gera and CPJ India Correspondent Kunal Majumder, during a convention on journalist safety in Raipur, Chhattisgarh, in February 2019 (CPJ)

On January 2, 2020 freelance journalist Santosh Yadav got his life back when the National Investigation Agency court in Jagdalpur acquitted him of charges of helping Maoists militants. The ruling marked the end of a legal nightmare that lasted over four years for Yadav, who says that he was threatened and beaten in custody, before being released on bail under restrictive conditions.

Yadav’s ordeal started in September 2015, when police in India’s Chhattisgarh state arrested him on accusations of aiding and abetting Maoist militants. The journalist’s colleagues and his lawyer, who spoke with CPJ at the time, said they believed the arrest was in connection to his reporting on alleged human rights abuses by police.

The journalist, who at the time was a contributor to the Hindi-language newspaper Navbharat in Bastar district, was charged with 28 counts including associating with a terrorist organization, supporting and aiding terrorist groups, taking part in a Maoist-led ambush against security forces, rioting with a deadly weapon, unlawful assembly, wrongful restraint, attempt to murder, public mischief and criminal conspiracy. He was held in pre-trial detention for one and a half years. Yadav told CPJ that during that time, police beat him regularly and threatened to have him killed. When he was released on bail, the court imposed several restrictive measures.

The day after the January 2 ruling that exonerated Yadav, the journalist spoke with CPJ about his struggle during the four years since his arrest. Here some excerpts from this interview :

Congratulations. So does this court ruling mean you are a free man?

Yes, all charges have been dropped. The judge said that I’m innocent and have been exonerated of all charges. He added that there is no evidence to prove the police charge that I’m a Maoist.

Prior to your 2015 arrest, had police contacted you about your reporting? Were there any signs or warning that police were unhappy with your journalism?

There were numerous incidents when local police officials would express displeasure over my reporting. I never thought it was anything serious. However, before my arrest, police started picking me up from my home at random hours, once at 3 a.m. They would threaten to arrest me, kill me. They even offered money in exchange for information on Maoists. They would keep me in lock-up the whole day and release me in the evening. I had a feeling that my life was at threat. I informed several journalists and human rights defenders including Malini Subramaniam [one of CPJ’s 2016 International Press Freedom Awardees], Shalini Gera and Isha Khandelwal that the police might arrest me.

……..
Previously, you told CPJ and other outlets that you were beaten and threatened even inside jail. Could you describe your time in prison?

I was beaten repeatedly, especially when I would go for bathing. I even started a protest fast, which several prisoners supported. The prison guards retaliated by beating us with batons. At that point, I didn’t know if I would live or die. After beating me mercilessly, I was stripped and put in solitary confinement for 11 days. Then they moved to me Kanker jail. [Kanker is 122 miles from Yadav’s hometown of Darbha.] Even there I was beaten up. The prison guards singled me out for my protests in the Jagdalpur jail and targeted me…

……..


In Turkey: two journalists and activist acquitted of terrorism charges – there is hope

July 17, 2019

Today, 17 july 2019, a Turkish court has acquitted two journalists and one human rights activist of terrorism charges. The three defendants had been accused of spreading terrorist propaganda for their work with a Kurdish newspaper, which has since been closed down.  Applause erupted in the courtroom as the verdict was read out, the BBC’s Mark Lowen reported from Istanbul.

Erol Onderoglu, the Turkey representative for press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF), journalist Ahmet Nesin, and Sebnem Korur Fincanci, chairwoman of Turkey’s Human Rights Foundation, were arrested in June 2016. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/05/turkish-human-rights-defender-and-forensic-doctor-sebnem-korur-fincanci-honoured/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/05/28/eren-keskin-in-turkey-sentenced-to-prison-and-more-to-come/]

RSF’s annual press freedom index ranks Turkey 157th out of 180 countries, in part because Turkey is the world’s largest jailer of journalists. Last year, Turkey imprisoned 68 journalists in total – the highest of any country in the world.

Mr Onderoglu, Mr Nesin and Ms Fincanci guest-edited the Kurdish paper Ozgur Gundem in 2016, which saw them accused by the authorities of making propaganda on behalf of the banned Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK). They each faced 14 years in prison. Two months after their arrest, in August that year, the Ozgur Gundem offices were raided and then permanently shut down. In her closing remarks, before the verdict was read out, Ms Fincanci told the court: “The only crime here was a crime against freedom of speech.”

In a statement released in April, Mr Onderoglu said: “I regard this trial as a part of an effort to intimidate journalists and rights defenders in Turkey. It is a heavy burden for anyone who yearns for democracy to be tried based on their professional activities or solidarity.’ “We are not concerned with being pushed around or harassed by the threats of persecution like the Sword of Damocles. Our concern is for the entire society; it is our concern for the erosion of a sense of justice which holds us all together.

RSF responded to the acquittal on Twitter, saying it was “deeply relieved“. The organisation also called for the scrapping of another trial against Mr Onderoglu, which is due to start in November. Christophe Deloire, RSF’s secretary general, tweeted that the verdict was “a great victory for justice and press freedom, both of which are violated on a daily basis in [Turkey]”. “It represents a huge hope for all the journalists who remain arbitrarily detained,” he added.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-49017181

Acquittals in bogus foreign funding case in Egypt welcome but long overdue

December 20, 2018

Responding to the news that the South Cairo Criminal Court on 20 December 2018 acquitted all 43 defendants in the retrial of Egypt’s notorious “foreign funding” case – also known as Case 173Najia Bounaim, Amnesty International’s North Africa Campaigns Director said: “Today’s acquittal of all 43 NGO workers in the first ‘foreign funding’ case is a step in the right direction for Egyptian justice. This was a bogus case that targeted human rights defenders simply for doing their legitimate work and should never have happened in the first place…However, today’s ruling only relates to the first phase of the case which investigated the funding of international organizations; the investigation into local Egyptian NGOs is ongoing and dozens of staff are still at risk.”

Since the ‘foreign funding’ case was opened Egyptian human rights defenders have been treated as enemies of the state, subjected to an unprecedented crackdown, including asset freezes, travel bans and prosecutions. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/04/03/egypt-the-foreign-funding-accusation-against-human-rights-defenders-goes-in-overdrive/]

The key test now will be whether today’s court decision paves the way for an end to the persecution of all human rights defenders in the country. The Egyptian authorities must lift all travel bans and asset freezes against NGO staff and drop their investigations into Egyptian NGOs and human rights defenders for their legitimate human rights work.”

[In June 2013,the first phase of the investigation into NGO funding (Case 173 of 2011) concluded when 42 foreign and Egyptian NGO workers were sentenced to prison terms of between one and five years and a series of international NGOs were closed. Since 2014, investigative judges have been conducting a criminal investigation into the work and funding of local NGOs and have issued asset freezes against six organizations and 10 human rights defenders. They have banned at least 30 human rights defenders and NGO staff from travel abroad. The judges also summoned at least six directors and 61 civil society organization staff for interrogation and later ordered their release on bail.]

Syria: Mazen Darwish free after 3 years, but still to be acquitted

August 12, 2015

Yesterday I reported on Human Rights Watch honoring Yara Bader as the representative of the Syrian Centre for Media and Freedom of Expression. Now I am catching up on the release of her husband and the founder of the Centre, Mazen Darwish, after more than three years in jail.  A verdict in his case is expected later this month. Darwish was arrested, along with two colleagues, in February 2012 during a raid. Hussein Ghreir and Hani al-Zaitani were freed last month (17 July and 18 July 2015, respectively) as part of an amnesty that was to have included Darwish, but his release was delayed.

Many NGOs (i.a. Frontline, the Observatory, AI and HRW) and Governments have welcomed the release but warn that Mazen Darwish, and his colleagues Hussein Ghrer and Hani al-Zaitani, have been charged with “publicising terrorist acts” and are still to be tried before the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court. They invariably call for all charges against them to be dropped. “Mazen, Hussein and Hani are not terrorists, they are human rights defenders,” FIDH President Karim Lahidji said “All charges against them must be dropped immediately”. “We urge the Syrian Anti-Terrorism Court to acquit them during the verdict hearing on August 31, as their judicial harassment has only been aimed at sanctioning their human rights activities”, OMCT Secretary General Gerald Staberock concluded.

See also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/04/08/syrian-journalist-mazen-darwish-deserved-winner-of-unescoguillermo-cano-award/

[On May 15, 2013, in its Resolution 67/262, the UN General Assembly called for the release of the three defenders. In January 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also found that the three defenders had been arbitrarily deprived of their liberty due to their human rights activities and called for their immediate release. Finally, UN Security Council Resolution 2139, adopted on February 22, 2014, also demanded the release of all arbitrarily detained people in Syria.]

Syria: Finally free, Mazen Darwish must now be acquitted.

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/mazendarwish

http://tvnewsroom.org/newslines/world/syria-releases-award-winning-activist-mazen-darwish-79643/

Breaking News: Finally an acquittal in Bahrain – Said Yousif Al-Muhafda twitted legally

March 12, 2013

In a case that was followed closely in this blog, a Bahraini human rights defender accused of sending out twitters with ‘false information’, there is finally some good news: a Bahraini court has acquitted Said Yousif Al-Muhafdah of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR – 2012 Final Nominee of the MEA). “It’s a great relief that Said Yousif was acquitted today, bringing an end to three months of judicial harassment.  Let’s hope this means the courts are beginning to show a better understanding of what freedom of expression means,” said Human Rights First’s Brian Dooley. Al-Muhafdah was arrested in December 2012 for “spreading false information on Twitter.”HRF logo

His case is one in a string cases stemming from the Kingdom’s ongoing judicial harassment of human rights defenders. It followed last year’s jailing of Nabeel Rajab, President of the BCHR, and of human rights activist Zainab Al Khawaja in February 2013. “This is a small victory, but unfortunately there are many other cases of judicial harassment that continue to wind their way through Bahrain’s judicial system,” Brian Dooley noted.  On March 21, the appeal of 23 medics, each sentenced to three months in prison after treating injured protestors in 2011, will continue. A verdict is expected at a date soon after. Dooley, who has authored four reports about the ongoing crackdown in Bahrain, has been forbidden access to the nation for more than a year. “This is not how a nation that wants to trumpet its human rights record treats monitors” Dooley added.

via Acquittal in Bahrain Twitter Case Comes as Dooley Denied Access Again | Human Rights First.