Posts Tagged ‘prison sentence’

Ahmed H. personifies the real danger of populist anti-terror measures!!

March 19, 2018

During an electoral campaign dominated by anti-migrant rhetoric, a Hungarian court has upheld a shocking verdict of terrorism against a Syrian citizen (Ahmed H.) and the symbolism is lost on no one [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/28/un-high-commissioner-for-human-rights-in-last-council-statement-does-not-mince-words/]. On 19 March 2018, Maxim Edwards (a journalist writing on Central and Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space – currently assistant editor at OCCRP in Sarajevo) published a fascinating insight into how ill-defined terrorism laws and anti-immigrant hype (in Hungary in this case) can lead to upholding a verdict of terrorism against a Syrian refugee.

Ahmed H. in the courtroom during the second-instance trial. Photo courtesy of Amnesty International / Anna Viktória Pál.

For Hungary to achieve anything in the next four years, we must not let in a single migrant” began Viktor Orbán in a speech earlier this month. ..

For Budapest, migration means terrorism — a commonsensical link reinforced daily by pro-government media and initiatives such as the state’s Public Consultation on Immigration and Terrorism. Leaflets for the May 2015 referendum on acceptance of refugees featured maps of “no go areas” across western Europe and shocking statistics about “murder by migrant.”

And now, the government has its very own case study. Last Wednesday, a Hungarian court upheld a verdict against a Syrian citizen accused of a terrorist act carried out at the Serbian border in 2015. After already spending two and a half years behind bars, Ahmed H. has been sentenced to seven years’ imprisonment and a ten year ban on entering Hungary.

 .

……

This was due to the elastic definition of terrorist acts in the Hungarian criminal code. Article 314A defines terrorism as, among other things, “coercing a government agency, state, or international body to do or not to do something”. Consequently, Ahmed’s alleged demand by megaphone that the Hungarian border police open the gates was enough to convict him of an act of terrorism.

(Ahmed was also charged with illegal entry into Hungary as part of a mass riot, an administrative violation which carries a minimum sentence of five years. He did not contest the charge that he threw objects at the police, which alone cannot constitute a terrorist threat even in the most elastic of interpretations.)

….
In a final twist to this story, Ahmed’s other relatives made it to an EU country, where they now live in safety. Ahmed H. himself, probably one of the only people in the crowd at Röszke who could legally enter Hungary, had succeeded in his errand — at the cost of over ten years of his life.

Please read the full story that contains lots of interesting detailshttp://neweasterneurope.eu/2018/03/19/trials-ahmed-h/

Saudi Terrorism court hands down heavy sentences for starting a human rights group

January 26, 2018

Background: The two men received a phone call on October 20, 2016 informing them that there was a case against them in the SCC, the Saudi court that handles terrorism cases, and informing them of the date of the first hearing. The first session of the trial took place in the SCC on October 30, 2016. The two men were charged with offences relating to their peaceful activism and freedom of expression, the main charge being the founding of a human rights organisation, the Union for Human Rights. They were accused of publishing statements about human rights, which the Public Prosecutor considered an infringement of the jurisdiction of government-sponsored civil society institutions like the Saudi Human Rights Commission and the National Society for Human Rights. The Public Prosecutor regarded publishing human rights reports, contacting the media and human rights organisations, being guests of the detained activist Abdullah al-Hamid, and retweeting posts on Twitter to be crimes deserving punishment. The first hearing ended with December 26, 2016 being set as the date for the next session.

In March 2017, Mohamed al-Oteibi left the country and travelled to Qatar, where he managed to obtain the right of asylum in Norway. As he set off for Norway, he was apprehended at Doha’s Hamad International Airport on May 24, 2017 and handed over to the Saudi authorities the following day. [see https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/06/01/qatar-extradited-human-rights-defender-otaibi-to-saudi-arabia-ignoring-norways-grant-of-asylum/] Mohamed bin Abdullah al-Oteibi is a prominent defender of human rights in Saudi Arabia. He had been arrested previously in Saudi Arabia while engaging in legitimate civic activity without committing any criminal act. On January 1, 2009 he was arrested along with other activists and charged with taking part in a peaceful demonstration. On that occasion he spent about four months in prison, including two months in solitary confinement, isolated from the outside world. Given that the activity Oteibi had engaged in and for which he was punished was a legitimate civic activity, in 2011 the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention issued a formal opinion to the effect that Oteibi’s arrest breached Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; that there was no legal basis to justify depriving Oteibi of his freedom; and that in the view of the Working Group his detention was essentially an arbitrary measure with no basis in law that contravened and breached a number of his basic legal rights.

Oteibi and Atawi were once again brought before the SCC, the court that handles terrorism cases, in December 2016. All of the charges against them violated their basic legal rights. The main charge was that of helping to set up an association concerned with human rights (the Union for Human Rights), despite the fact that Oteibi, Atawi and their colleagues had already closed down the group and suspended its activities, in exchange for undertakings that they would not face any penalty…

https://alqst.org/eng/terrorism-court-hands-seven-14-year-jail-sentences-starting-human-rights-group/

http://www.arabianbusiness.com/politics-economics/384249-new-saudi-law-to-fight-terrorism-criticised

Iran: shameful sentences for Narges Mohammadi, Issa Saharkhiz, Arash Sadeghi – no detente in human rights

September 30, 2016

© International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

There was some hope that with the ‘nuclear agreement’ Iran would relent in its persecution of human rights defenders. [https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2015/09/11/human-rights-defenders-squeezed-by-geo-politics-the-cases-of-colombia-iran-and-cuba/#more-6957] It now seems clear that this is not the case:

Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Amnesty International, OMCT and FIDH and many others condemned a decision by an Iranian appeals court to uphold a 16-year jail sentence against journalist and human rights activist Narges Mohammadi. Under a law passed last year, she will ‘only’ serve the sentence linked to the most important charge – in this case 10 years for “forming and managing an illegal group” which pressed for an end to capital punishment. Mohammadi, 44, was the spokesperson of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders and campaigned for an end to the death penalty in Iran. 2003 Nobel peace laureate Shirin Ebadi who founded the Centre for Human Rights Defenders, said:  “I condemn this sentence imposed by the Iranian judicial system as Narges’s only crime is to be a human rights defender in a country that flouts these rights“.

Mohammadi went on hunger strike in June after being denied phone contact with her children, who live with their father in France. The authorities relented after 20 days of the hunger strike. [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/06/12/retaliation-against-iranian-human-rights-defender-for-meeting-with-ashton/]

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Why do Gandhi and Martin Luther King scare the Angolan government?

March 29, 2016

On 28 March 2016 the New York based Human Rights Foundation strongly condemned the convictions and sentences handed down by a court in Angola against a group of 17 youth activists for reading a book that advocates nonviolent resistance to dictatorship. The court declared the activists — including prominent Angolan rapper Luaty Beirão — guilty of “rebellion against the president” and “planning a coup,” sentencing them to prison terms that range from two to eight years. Beirao, also known by his stage name Ikonoklasta, has been an outspoken critic of the government, calling for a fairer distribution of the southern African state’s oil wealth. His term is five-and-a-half years.

Angola: HRF Condemns Convictions and Demands Release of Youth ActivistsSource: Vice News

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Uzbekistan: Murod Juraev free after two decades in jail – what about the others?

December 29, 2015

 For more than two decades, Murod Juraev languished behind bars in Uzbekistan and was subjected to torture and ill-treatment so bad that all his teeth fell out. After 21 years in detention — one of the world’s longest imprisoned political activists — Juraev was released in November 2015.  [Juraev was a member of the Erk opposition party and a former local mayor in southern Uzbekistan when he was jailed, in 1994.]  Juraev had his jail term extended four times to keep him in jail — in 2004, 2006, 2009 and 2012 — after authorities found he had broken prison rules, including “peeling carrots incorrectly”, “failure to lift a heavy object” andwearing a white shirt.”

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Human rights defender Farmonov’s jail sentence extended; time for Rapporteur on Uzbekistan

May 29, 2015

Human Rights Defender Azam Farmonov, imprisoned since 2006. © Tolib Yakubov
Uzbek authorities should immediately and unconditionally release the imprisoned human rights defender Azam Farmonov, whose sentence has been arbitrarily extended for five years by an Uzbek court, Human Rights Watch said on 28 May. In a related press statement NGOs call on the UN Human Rights Council to mark the 10th anniversary of the Andijan massacre to establish a special rapporteur on the human rights situation in Uzbekistan to hold the government accountable for ongoing, egregious abuses and the ensure sustained scrutiny and public reporting on human rights developments in the country. The Uzbek government’s serious, systematic violations and persistent refusal to cooperate with the UN’s human rights mechanisms-including by denying access to special procedures, and failing to implement key recommendations made by treaty bodies and UN member states under the Universal Periodic Review-warrant resolute Human Rights Council action.

[The arbitrary extension of Farmonov’s prison term shortly before his scheduled release date for allegedly “violating prison rules,” came to light on May 21, 2015. The EU and the UN Committee against Torture have previously called for Farmonov’s release. “Azam Farmonov has already lost nine years simply for being a human rights activist in Uzbekistan,” said Steve Swerdlow, Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The cruel addition of five more years to his sentence is yet another sign that the Uzbek government should be made to pay a price for its abysmal human rights record.”]

Human Rights Watch has documented the practice of arbitrarily extending the sentences of people imprisoned on political charges. The action is often taken just days before the person is to be released, on bogus grounds such as possessing “unauthorized” nail clippers, saying prayers, or wearing a white shirt and may result in years of additional imprisonment.

Farmonov’s family also revealed that they had received a note Farmonov had written on toilet paper in which he appeals to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to raise the issue of his unjust treatment directly with President Islam Karimov and senior officials in the Uzbek government.  Ban is scheduled to visit Uzbekistan from June 9 to 11 and should urge President Karimov to uphold Uzbekistan’s international human rights commitments and release all those held on politically motivated charges.

The EU, the UN Committee against Torture, and other bodies have earlier called for Farmonov’s release. In an official statement by then-European Commission president José Manuel Barroso, at a January 2011 meeting in Brussels with Karimov, Barroso raised specific human rights concerns, including Farmonov’s unjust imprisonment and ill-treatment. In its 2014 human rights dialogue with Uzbekistan, the EU noted its concern with the authorities’ practice arbitrarily extending sentences. But an EU statement on May 18 following a meeting of the EU-Uzbekistan Cooperation Council reads: “the EU welcomed Uzbekistan’s readiness to discuss about human rights with the EU in an increasingly open fashion within the Human Rights Dialogue.” “The extension of an unjust sentence for a human rights defender, not Uzbek officials’ hollow rhetoric, is the real test of whether the government is ‘ready’ to improve human rights,” Swerdlow reacted

Uzbekistan: 5 More Years for Jailed Activist | Human Rights Watch.

China and Azerbaijan: champions in sentencing of human rights defenders

April 19, 2015

China Sentences Journalist To seven Several years In Jail For Leaking Condition Secrets and techniques
I tend not to refer to all cases of human rights defenders detained or sentenced. Sadly there are too many, but also they are often covered by many human rights NGOs and other media. I make an exception for two recent cases which were done by serial offenders China and Azerbaijan:
– A Chinese court sentenced 71-year old journalist, Gao Yu, to 7 years in jail, accusing her of ‘leaking’ an inner Communist Get together document to an overseas site. Many NGOs, human rights defenders and media outlets have condemned the harsh sentence, as well as several States and the EU.

– The other case is Rasul Jafarov, a human rights lawyer In Azerbaijan, who has been an outspoken critic of the government’s crackdown of media freedoms that have resulted in the arrests of prominent journalists in Azerbaijan. Despite protests, on 16 April a Baku court sentenced Jafarov to six and a half years imprisonment. [He actively participated in the ‘Sing for Democracy <https://www.ned.org/30years/rasul-jafarov-azerbaijan/> movement in the build-up to the Eurovision Song Contest in Baku in May 2012. He is  the Head of the Human Rights Club <http://www.civicsolidarity.org/member/551/human-rights-club>. For more see: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/rasul-jafarov/]

Some of the sources:
http://www.ntd.tv/en/news/world/asia-pacific/20150417/249444-china-jails-journalist-accused-of-leaking-state-secrets-for-7-years.html#sthash.2E56hdK6.dpuf

http://www.bulletinstandard.org/life-style/china-sentences-journalist-to-seven-several-years-in-jail-for-leaking-condition-secrets-and-techniques-h3441.html

http://eeas.europa.eu/statements-eeas/2015/150417_02_en.htm

China jails journalist accused of leaking state secrets for 7 years – New Tang Dynasty Television (NTD TV).

https://www.the-newshub.com/international/prominent-humans-rights-defender-sentenced-on-fabricated-charges

Morocco: military turned HRD sentenced to 6 months, while UN does still not monitor human rights in Western Sahara

April 16, 2015

Easter is over and we resume our human rights defenders coverage with the story of Mbarek Daoudi in Morocco who was sentenced to 6 months. What makes it remarkable is that this human rights defender served loyally for 30 years in the Moroccan army. On 15 April 2015 Frontline posted this update:

On 9 April 2015, Mbarek Daoudi was sentenced to six months’ imprisonment by the Court of Appeal in Agadir. The decision came after the Public Prosecutor appealed the initial court decision [3 months imprisonment] against Mbarek Daoudi, and called for the stricter punishment of the human rights defender.

Since retiring from the Moroccan army in 2008, Mbarek Daoudi has peacefully advocated for the Sahrawi people’s right to self-determination. On 21 December 2014, the human rights defender ended a seven-week hunger strike he had began in protest at his conditions of detention and the delays in scheduling his trial.

 

In the meantime the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights came out on the same day with a statement urging the UN to add a human rights monitoring mechanism to the mandate of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the only active peacekeeping mission established after 1978 without a human rights monitoring mechanism! The Security Council must vote to extend the mandate by April 30, 2015.

It is shameful that a small group of countries are denying the people of Western Sahara a basic human rights protection mechanism. The reports of abuses are undeniable, and the United Nation’s Security Council needs to respond by expanding MINURSO’s mandate,” said Kerry Kennedy. “The international community must not turn its back on reports of torture in detention, medical negligence towards ailing prisoners, unmonitored landmine blasts, violent dispersal of peaceful protests, and constraints on entry and travel within the region.

In February 2015, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights released a report tracking reported human rights abuse in Western Sahara.

Update: Morocco – Mbarek Daoudi sentenced to six month’s imprisonment | Front Line Defenders.

Human rights lawyer Kudratov in Tajikistan sent 9 years to penal colony

January 13, 2015

On 13 January Asia-plus reported that a court in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, sentenced Sukhrat Kudratov to nine years in a penal colony for bribery and fraud. Kudratov’s real crime, it appears, was defending opposition activist Zaid Saidov in 2013.  Last year, another one of Saidov’s lawyers, Fakhriddin Zokirov, was arrested on forgery charges. He was released after eight months on the promise he would no longer defend Saidov. Steve Swerdlow of Human Rights Watch called Kudratov’s jailing “a serious setback for the freedom of expression and the independent legal profession in Tajikistan.”

At the time of the arrest, Frontline Defenders called him “one of few lawyers in Tajikistan who defends opposition activists, victims of police torture, and those accused of ‘religious extremism“. Dushanbe-based Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law named Kudratov their human rights defender of the year in 2011.

Tajikistan Jails Prominent Human Rights Lawyer | EurasiaNet.org.

What Human Rights Day means in Bahrain and how the EU made it worse

December 11, 2014

On 9 December, on the eve of Human Rights Day, Zainab Al-Khawaja was sentenced to 4 years and 4 months in two separate court hearings in Bahrain. Front Line, Human Rights First and others have reported extensively on this courageous human rights defenders [see also: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/zainab-al-khawaja/] .

She was sentenced to 16 months’ imprisonment for “sabotaging properties belonging to the Ministry of Interior” and “insulting a public official” to three months’ imprisonment and fined 3,000 Bahraini Dinar (approx. 6,400 Euro) for “tearing up a photograph of the King”.

Frontline NEWlogos-1 condensed version - cropped also shockingly reports that on the same day as her sentencing, the European Union presented a human rights award to Bahrain’s National Institution for Human Rights and the Ombudsman of the Ministry of the Interior! Although this concerns a relatively unknown regional award (the Chaillot Prize is presented annually by the Delegation of the European Union in Riyadh http://www.ambafrance-bh.org/Press-release-Delegation-of-the.) the state press has been making the best of it [http://www.gulf-daily-news.com/NewsDetails.aspx?storyid=391213] and it is hard to see this as in line with the EU policy on Human Rights Defenders.