Posts Tagged ‘release’

Egypt: Activist Patrick Zaki released following international pressure

December 22, 2021

While the recent harsh sentencing of 3 human rights defenders in Egypt made headlines [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/12/21/alaa-abdel-fattah-and-two-others-receive-heavy-prison-sentences-in-egypt/], and the Government decried foreign intervention, it may be interesting to note that not long ago the release of another human rights defender was attributed to international pressure and campaigning.

Patrick Zaki after his release on Wednesday 8 December 2021 (Screengrab/EIPR) By Areeb Ullah

Human rights activist Patrick Zaki was freed on Wednesday 8 December 2021, a day after Egypt’s Emergency State Security Misdemeanour Court ordered his provisional release. 

Zaki, a 28-year-old researcher at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), had been studying at Italy’s Bologna University when he was taken into custody upon his return to Cairo in February 2020. Despite his release, he still faces a range of charges, including “calling for protests without permission”, “spreading false news” and “inciting violence and terrorism”. His trial will resume on 1 February 2022.

Tuesday’s hearing was the second time Zaki’s trial has been adjourned since the first session, on 14 September 2020. Human Rights Watch (HRW) told Middle East Eye that Zaki was subjected to physical torture in the days after his arrest.

Commenting on the court’s ruling for his release, Amr Magdi, Egypt researcher for HRW, described it as “rare happy news” for Patrick and his family. “Its a win with a bitter taste,” Magdi told MEE on Tuesday, pointing out that Zaki is technically still on trial as he has not been acquitted.

Zaki had been an outspoken campaigner for the truth about the 2016 murder of Italian student Giulio Regeni in Egypt. Zaki’s arrest sparked a solidarity campaign in Italy, with politicians and activists urging Egyptian authorities to release him.  Italian human rights campaigners have expressed concerns that Zaki could be at risk of torture and ill-treatment in Egypt’s notorious prisons, drawing parallels with the torture of Regeni.  Regeni’s family has also expressed solidarity with the detained activist.

In April, the Italian senate voted to approve a proposal by two lawmakers urging the government to grant Zaki Italian citizenship. Meanwhile, more than 50 Italian cities have announced the granting of “honorary citizenship” to Zaki. This was done, EIPR said, in order to show their appreciation for him as a human rights defender and to demand his immediate release in a campaign called 100 Cities with Patrick, launched by a group of human rights activists in Italy.

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/egypt-patrick-zaki-released-italy-solidarity-regeni

https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20220105-egypt-releases-3-prominent-political-prisoners-what-about-the-65000-others/

Abdul Rahman Al-Shamiri, after 15 years, released in Saudi Arabia

September 28, 2021

Abdul Rahman Al-Shamiri [m3takl/Twitter]Abdul Rahman Al-Shamiri

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On 24 September 2021 the Middle East Monitor reported that the ALQST and the Prisoners of Conscience Twitter account quoted sources as saying that Al-Shamiri was released “following the expiry of his sentence.”

Al-Shamiri is a retired Saudi academic who worked at Umm Al-Qura University, he was also a consultant in the kingdom’s Shura Council for years.

He was arrested in 2007, and sentenced to a 15-year prison term on charges including “disobeying the ruler”.

In December 2003, Al-Shamiri was one of the signatories of a reform document sent to the Saudi monarch at the time, King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz, demanding Saudis be allowed to participate in the political system. The document was followed by others, including one which demanded the release of three rights defenders, including the late Abdullah Al-Hamid.

Germain Rukuki, Burundi human rights defender, out of jail

July 3, 2021
Pic

Burundian human rights activist Germain Rukuki was freed on Wednesday afternoon after spending four years in prison, his lawyer told the BBC Great Lakes.

Mr Rukuki was sentenced in 2018 to 32 years in jail on charges that included threatening state security and being part of an insurrection during protests in 2015 against former President Pierre Nkurunziza. He denied the charges.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/03/29/ngo-statement-condemns-new-irregularities-in-the-case-of-germain-rukuki-burundi/

Last week, a court of appeal in the city of Bujumbura reduced the sentence to one year – opening the path to his release.

Last December, President Evariste Ndayishimiye pardoned four journalists who had spent a year in prison for ‘undermining state security’ under his predecessor, charges that they denied.

After a year in power, President Ndayishimiye has been praised for positive moves toward human rights, freedom of press and reviving the country’s international relations.

But opposition in the country and international rights defenders deplore ongoing rights violations and political intolerance.

http://www.businessghana.com/site/news/politics/241505/Burundi-human-rights-activist-freed-from-jail

s://ishr.ch/latest-updates/burundi-germain-rukuki-is-free-at-last/

Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah released in Saudi Arabia

June 28, 2021

Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah were arrested in August 2018 as part of a government crackdown against dissent.

Nassima al-Sadah, left, and Samar Badawi were held in detention for nearly three years [AFP & EPA]
Nassima al-Sadah, left, and Samar Badawi were held in detention for nearly three years [AFP & EPA]

“Human rights defenders Samar Badawi and Nassima al-Sadah have been released following the expiry of the 3-year sentences against them,” ALQST for Human Rights said in a tweet on 27 June 2021. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/23/saudi-arabia-uses-women-to-spruce-up-its-image-2-efforts/

See also: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/eaed8641-4056-4130-a5ff-fb7bf289cece

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/27/saudi-arabia-releases-two-prominent-womens-rights-activists

Will Loujain al-Hathloul be released on Thursday 11 February? – She was.

February 9, 2021

Saudi activist Loujain al-Hathloul had been sentenced to almost six years in jail (AFP/File photo) By Ali Harb in Washington

After more than 1,000 days in detention where she endured torture and hunger strikes, Saudi women’s rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul is expected to be released on Thursday, her sister revealed in a tweet on Monday. 

A Saudi court sentenced Hathloul to close to six years in prison late in 2020 on charges of contacting foreign organisations stemming from her human rights work. With time served and the court suspending part of the jail sentence, she was set for release in March. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/12/29/loujain-al-hathloul-sentenced-to-over-5-years-prison-by-saudi-terror-court/]

Her early release would come weeks into the administration of US President Joe Biden, who has vowed to “reassess” relations with Riyadh and prioritise human rights in its dealings with the kingdom. In a phone call with Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan last week, US Secretary of State Tony Blinken stressed “several key priorities of the new administration including elevating human rights issues and ending the war in Yemen”, according to a statement by the State Department.

In 2019, Hathloul and fellow detained feminist activists Nouf Abdulaziz and Eman al-Nafjan received the PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award. In 2020 she received the Prix de la Liberte (Normandy) and the Magnitsky award [see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/1a6d84c0-b494-11ea-b00d-9db077762c6c] See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8bmartin-ennals-award-finalists-2021-announced/

And it did happen on 10 February 2021: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/02/saudi-arabia-release-of-womens-rights-defender-loujain-al-hathloul-long-overdue/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/loujain-al-hathloul-saudi-activist-be-freed-sister-says.

However, see https://redactionpolitics.com/2021/03/07/loujain-al-hathloul-still-not-free-argue-human-rights-groups/

Pressure works: Egypt releases human rights defenders

December 4, 2020

Many media (here Sudarsan Raghavan for the Washington Post on 3 December 2020) have reported the good news that three Egyptian human rights defenders were released from detention Thursday after a wave of international condemnation against the Arab nation’s authoritarian government that included UN and Hollywood celebrities.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/09/25/rafto-prize-for-2020-goes-to-the-egyptian-commission-for-rights-and-freedoms-ecrf/

The trio — Gasser Abdel-Razek, Karim Ennarah and Mohamed Basheer — work for the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, one of the few remaining rights groups in Egypt, where President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi has waged a massive crackdown on opponents and activists alike.

“They are fine, they are in good spirits,” said Ragya Omran, their lawyer, Thursday night.

 The three men were arrested last month after they met with 13 Western diplomats to discuss ways to improve human rights conditions in Egypt. A few days after the meeting, they were rounded up by Egyptian security forces over a week-long period and charged with “joining a terrorist organization” and “using social media accounts to spread false information.” [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/18/in-reprisal-for-talking-to-diplomats-egypt-arrests-human-rights-defender-mohamed-basheern/]

“It was a very quick and clean release, which is unprecedented,” Omran said. “There was a lot of international pressure. … It worked.”

Few arrests have sparked the global outrage that followed the detention of the EIPR employees. The United Nations, France and other governments publicly denounced the arrests. Antony Blinken, President-elect Joe Biden’s nominee for secretary of state, declared in a tweet that “meeting with foreign diplomats is not a crime. Nor is peacefully advocating for human rights.”

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/11/29/2020-award-of-european-bars-associations-ccbe-goes-to-seven-egyptian-lawyers-who-are-in-prison/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/09/un-expresses-deep-concern-over-egypt-using-special-terror-courts-to-silence-human-rights-defenders/

On social media, a petition campaign with the hashtags #FreeEIPRstaff and #FreeKarimEnnarah went viral, spearheaded by Ennarah’s British wife, Jess Kelly. It prompted Hollywood celebrities such as Scarlett Johansson and Emma Thompson to post videos of themselves on YouTube urging the release of the EIPR staffers. In Egypt, EIPR remained vocal and defiant.

On Thursday night, after the three men took cabs from the prison to their homes, one of the group’s leaders publicly noted that the global outcry played a significant role in convincing the regime to release his colleagues.

I can confirm my friends and EIPR colleague, Gasser, Basheer and Karim have been released and are home which I guess means we (and you) managed to #FreeEIPRstaff,tweeted Hossam Bahgat, the organization’s founder.

Bahgat, despite being under a travel ban and asset freeze imposed by the Sissi government, returned to take the helm last month after Abdel-Razek, its executive director, was taken into custody. Placed in a cold cell, he was initially denied warm clothing and a mattress, among other ill treatment, said Amnesty International.

On 18 December the EU started to look again at its relation: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20201218-european-parliament-calls-for-review-in-relations-with-egypt/

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/egypt-human-rights-campaign-international–outcry/2020/12/03/bda49858-3599-11eb-9699-00d311f13d2d_story.html

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/egypt-civil-rights-scarlett-johansson-eipr-leaders-release-free-karim-ennarah/

Good news: Iran temporarily frees human rights defender Nasrin Sotoudeh

November 9, 2020

Many media outlets (here the Guardian) reported on Saturday 7 November 2020 that Iran has temporarily released Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent human rights lawyer who was jailed two years ago on spying and propaganda charges. Sotoudeh’s release followed warnings last month by human rights groups that her health had severely deteriorated after she staged a six-week hunger strike to demand the release of political prisoners and rights activists.

{see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/07/un-rights-chief-urges-iran-to-release-jailed-sotoudeh-and-other-human-rights-defenders-citing-covid-19-risk/ as well as:https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/06/13/1-million-people-demand-that-iranian-government-release-nasrin-sotoudeh/ ]

“Nasrin Sotoudeh … went on furlough with the agreement of the assistant superintendent of the women’s prison,” the judiciary’s Mizan news agency said, without giving further details.

Sotoudeh, 57, who has represented opposition activists including women prosecuted for removing their headscarf, was arrested in 2018 and charged with spying, spreading propaganda and insulting Iran’s supreme leader.

Sotoudeh has been recognised widely with seven major human rights awards.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/24/martin-ennals-award-laureates-rally-to-demand-freedom-for-their-imprisoned-fellow-award-winners/

See also: https://www.lawgazette.co.uk/news/sotoudeh-thanks-global-colleagues-as-she-is-freed-for-now/5106333.article

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/07/iran-temporarily-frees-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh

Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi released from jail, finally

October 8, 2020

Iranian opposition human rights activist, Narges Mohammadi, at the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Tehran (AFP/File photo) By MEE staff

Prominent Iranian human rights defender Narges Mohammadi has been released from prison, her husband confirmed on Thursday 8 October 2020. She had been serving a eight and a half years out of a10-year sentence for ‘forming and managing an illegal group’

Ismail Sadeghi Niaraki, prosecutor in Zanjan province, said a newly passed law reducing prison sentences included the activist and said she had been released on that basis, according to BBC Persian. Mohammadi, who was held in Zanjan Prison in northwestern Iran, was the spokeswoman for the Centre of Human Rights Defenders in Iran.

Originally serving a six-year sentence dating from 2011, she had been released on bail before being arrested again on new charges in 2015.

The mother of two was then sentenced to 16 years in prison for “forming and managing an illegal group” among other charges, with a minimum of 10 years having to be served. Coronavirus: Iran reports record high death numbers as it grapples with third wave

Her husband, Taghi Rahmani, confirmed the news on Twitter. “Narges was released from Zanjan prison at three in the morning,” he tweeted. “Wishing freedom for all prisoners.

UN rights experts in July called for Mohammadi’s release after she reportedly fell ill with Covid-19, warning her life was at stake.(see: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=26118&LangID=E

“The Iranian authorities must act now before it is too late,” the 16 independent experts said in a statement.

Iran has released more than 100,000 prisoners since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March, as a way of reducing infection.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/10/07/un-rights-chief-urges-iran-to-release-jailed-sotoudeh-and-other-human-rights-defenders-citing-covid-19-risk/

and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/06/exclusion-of-human-rights-defenders-from-covid-release-measures-is-the-norm/

https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/iran-narges-mohammadi-release-prison-human-rights

https://www.sfchronicle.com/news/article/Iran-frees-rights-activist-after-more-than-8-15630185.php

Breaking: Human Rights Defender Nabeel Rajab in Bahrain finally released

June 10, 2020

Human rights activist Nabeel Rajab gestures as he leaves a police station in Manama, Bahrain, on May 28, 2012. Rajab, who had been sentenced to five years in prison for tweets alleging abuse at Bahrain’s prisons, has been released amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic HASAN JAMALI/AP

JON GAMBRELL for Associated Press reproted on 9 June, 2020 that Bahrain has freed prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, allowing him to serve out the remainder of his internationally criticized prison sentence from home. See recent post: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/04/24/martin-ennals-award-laureates-rally-to-demand-freedom-for-their-imprisoned-fellow-award-winners/

Nabeel Rajab, 55, wore a garland of white roses after his release, smiling while posing with his family for the first time since being detained in June 2016. Bahrain has been releasing inmates amid the pandemic, but largely had avoided freeing political prisoners. In September, a court denied Rajab’s request to serve out the rest of his sentence at home.

Rajab received a five-year prison sentence over tweets alleging torture at one of the country’s prisons and criticism of the Saudi-led war in Yemen. He separately received a two-year prison sentence over television interviews he gave that included criticism of Bahrain, a small island nation off Saudi Arabia that’s home to the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet. Fo rmore posts on Rajab, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/nabeel-rajab/

Bahrain’s prisons remain crowded with peaceful human rights defenders and opposition leaders, whose lives are threatened by the government’s inadequate response to COVID-19,” said Husain Abdulla, the executive director of the group Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain.

https://www.startribune.com/bahrain-activist-nabeel-rajab-released-from-prison/571128782/?refresh=true

https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/prominent-bahraini-rights-activist-released-from-prison-1.633018

Azerbaijan: finally full acquittal of Ilqar Mammadov and Rasul Jafarov

April 26, 2020
Ilqar Mammadov speaks to reporters on April 23 in Baku.
Ilqar Mammadov speaks to reporters on April 23 in Baku.
Rasul Jafarov
Rasul Jafarov

This judgement, which overturns their previous convictions, is a welcome step that finally fully implements the respective decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. The European Union expects Azerbaijan to live up to its international commitments and to continue to implement the remaining decisions of the European Court of Human Rights,” the EU statement said.​ Mammadov, who served more than five years of a seven-year prison term, fought for his full acquittal since his early release in August 2018.​ He was detained in February 2013 and charged with helping stoke unrest in the town of Ismayilli, northwest of Baku. He was sentenced to seven years in jail in March 2014. Mammadov and his supporters insisted the case against him was politically motivated.​

Jafarov was arrested in August 2014 and in April 2015 he was sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison after a court in Baku found him guilty of tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and abuse of office. He denied the charges, saying they were politically motivated. ​ Jafarov was granted early release in March 2016 and worked on his full acquittal since then.​ [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/03/18/azerbaijan-pardon-jafarov-ismayilova-aliyev/]

https://www.rferl.org/a/us-eu-welcome-full-acquittal-of-azerbaijani-politician-rights-defender/30575138.html