Posts Tagged ‘RFE/RL’

Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk sanctioned over Sakharov Prize for Ilham Tohti

March 24, 2021

Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (file photo)
Bulgarian MEP Ilhan Kyuchyuk (file photo)

On 23 March, 2021 the RFE/RL’s Bulgarian Service reported that an ethnic-Turkish Bulgarian deputy at the European Parliament believes China imposed sanctions on him because he helped an imprisoned Ilham Tohti receive the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. Tohti is the winner of at least seven human rights awards -see: https://www.trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/laureates/37AE7DC4-16DB-51E9-4CF8-AB0828AEF491]

“I think it’s because of my active role in nominating Professor Ilham Tohti for the Sakharov Prize,” Ilhan Kyuchyuk told RFE/RL when asked why he was among 10 European individuals blacklisted by Beijing on March 22.

China’s Foreign Ministry announced that Kyuchyuk was on its tit-for-tat blacklist list after coordinated Western sanctions were imposed against Chinese officials and companies over the abuse of the rights of the mainly Muslim ethnic-Uyghur community in the Xinjiang region.

In addition to Kyuchyuk, Beijing sanctioned four other members of the European Parliament – Reinhard Butikofer and Michael Gahler from Germany, Raphael Glucksmann from France, and Miriam Lexmann from Slovakia.

This should not surprise in view of Chinese earlier strong reaction on human rights awards: see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/08/29/chinese-sensitivity-again-on-display-re-human-rights-awards/

as well as: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2012/12/06/china-and-its-amazing-sensitivity-on-human-rights-defenders/

https://www.rferl.org/a/bulgarian-mep-kyuchyuk-china-sanctions-uyghur-tohti-sakharov-prize/31165846.html

Soltan Achilova has issued a rare rebuke of the Turkmen President – On YouTube

February 23, 2021

Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova (file photo)
Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova (file photo)

On 19 February 2021 RFE/RL reported that 71-year-old Turkmen journalist Soltan Achilova has issued a rare rebuke of the Central Asian nation’s authoritarian President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, criticizing him and his government in a video posted on YouTube for failing to provide proper heating and water supply to Ashgabat residents during winter.

In the video statement that appeared on YouTube late on February 18, Achilova, who has previously worked as a reporter for RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, said she will no longer call Berdymukhammedov “respected” because “millions of Turkmen had stopped respecting you long ago.”

Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (file photo)
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (file photo)

Such an act of public dissent is a rare occurrence in Turkmenistan, where Berdymukhammedov has run the former Soviet republic with an iron fist since 2006, becoming the center of an elaborate personality cult

Last month, Achilova was named as one of three finalists for the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders for her reports from Turkmenistan, one of the most repressive countries in the world. SEE ALSO: Turkmen Journalist Achilova Among Finalists For Top Human Rights Prize [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2021/01/18/%e2%80%8b%e2%80%8bmartin-ennals-award-finalists-2021-announced/]. See also: https://www.martinennalsaward.org/hrd/soltan-achilova/#film

Achilova also criticized Berdymukhammedov and his government for what she called a “failure to provide” ordinary people with decent food at acceptable prices, adding that “miserable pensions and salaries in the country” do not provide people with the means to shop for regular items at local markets. Achilova added that the heating system in her apartment had been switched off several times in recent days, which she called an intentional warning over her journalistic activities.

Our fellow Turkmen citizens working in foreign countries have staged several protests recently demanding your resignation. We join those protests and demand your resignation as well because you are incapable of carrying out your duties. We are suffering and you do not even care about it. All you are capable of is ruining our homes and causing our people to suffer,” Achilova said.

Based in Ashgabat, Achilova is currently a contributor to the Vienna-based independent news website Khronika Turkmenistana (Chronicles of Turkmenistan), which focuses on news and developments in Turkmenistan.
Turkmen authorities, who don’t tolerate an independent press, have targeted Achilova in the past for her work as a journalist. SEE ALSO: RFE/RL Correspondent Roughed Up — Again — In Turkmenistan

https://www.rferl.org/a/turkmenistan-journalist-achilova-rare-public-rebuke-president-berdymukhammedov/31111278.html

https://www.timesca.com/index.php/news/23482-turkmenistan-journalist-posts-rare-public-rebuke-of-president-on-youtube

Five individuals now listed as foreign agents in Russia

January 11, 2021

On 8 January, 2021 RFE/RL’s Tatar-Bashkir Service reports on a worrying development in Russia: On 28 December, Russia said it had placed five people — three journalists who contribute to RFE/RL and two human rights activists — on the Justice Ministry’s registry of “foreign mass media performing the functions of a foreign agent.” Previously, only foreign-funded NGOs had been placed on the registry, in keeping with Russia’s passage of its controversial “foreign agents law” in 2012. The law was later expanded to include media outlets and independent journalists [SEE: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/11/19/russias-foreign-agents-bill-goes-in-overdrive/]

The three listed individuals affiliated with RFE/RL are Lyudmila Stavitskaya and Sergei Markelov, freelance correspondents for the North Desk of RFE/RL’s Russian Service; and Denis Kamalyagin, editor in chief of the online news site Pskov Province and a contributor to RFE/RL’s Russian Service.

Prominent human rights activist Lev Ponomaryov [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/06/25/russian-ngo-for-human-rights-forcibly-evicted-from-offices/]was also named to the registry, as was activist and Red Cross worker Daria Apakhonchich.

On December 29, the ministry expanded the list again, adding the Nasiliu.net human rights center, which deals with domestic violence cases. The additions bring the total number of individuals or entities listed to 18, the majority of them affiliated with RFE/RL.

Two international rights organisations have expressed concerns:

The UN Human Rights Office regrets the inclusion of the five individuals in the foreign agents list, which targets human rights defenders and journalists and appears to be aimed at limiting their freedom of expression and speech,” Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN Human Rights Office, said in a comment to RFE/RL on January 8.

The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media added in a separate comment that the move “narrows the space for freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and free flow of information in the Russian Federation.

The Justice Ministry did not explain on what grounds it included the recent additions of the five individuals and one entity to the registry.

In 2017, Human Rights Watch, a U.S.-based rights group, called the law “devastating” for local NGOs, saying more than a dozen had been forced to close their doors.

RFE/RL has said it is “reprehensible” that professional journalists were among the first individuals singled out by Russia as “foreign agents.”

The Council of Europe also has expressed concerns over situation, saying that the foreign agent law in general — “stifles the development of civil society and freedom of expression.”

https://www.rferl.org/a/russia-foreign-agents-list-united-nations-regrets/31038877.html

Kazakh human rights defenders sentenced for just remembering Dulat Aghadil

August 29, 2020
Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
Dulat Aghadil died in mysterious circumstances in February.
According to RFE/RL’s Kazakh Service of 28 August 2020 dozens of Kazakh human rights defenders were given short jail sentences or fines for attending a commemoration of prominent civil rights campaigner Dulat Aghadil, who died in custody in February this year.

At least seven people were found guilty for attending an unsanctioned rally and sentenced to up to 15 days in detention this week, relatives and rights defenders said.

Among those jailed were activists Alma Nurysheva and Alsan Hasanonov, who were sentenced by a court in Aqmala Province on August 27. Their trials took place via a video link. The same court ordered several other activists to pay fines ranging between $200 and $400. Kazakh human rights defenders say “dozens” of activists from Nur-Sultan, Almaty, Aqtau, Oskemen, and Semei cities have gone on trial in recent days.

At least 100 people attended the commemoration on August 8 in Aghadil’s home village of Talapker in the Aqmola Province. Aghadil, 43, died under mysterious circumstances while being held in pretrial detention in the capital, Nur-Sultan, in late February, just one day after being arrested for failing to comply with a court order to report to local police. Authorities said Aghadil died from a heart attack, but his family and fellow rights defenders say he had no history of heart issues. Rallies were held in Nur-Sultan and other cities in February and March to demand a thorough investigation into his death.

https://www.rferl.org/a/kazakh-activists-punished-for-attending-commemoration-of-civil-rights-figure-who-died-in-custody/30809396.html

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

General Assembly adopted draft resolution seeking protection of human rights in Russian-occupied Crimea,

December 22, 2019

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/263442213/un-adopts-updated-resolution-to-safeguard-rights-in-crimea

Prominent Russian human rights defender Sergei Sharov-Delone dies at 63

November 10, 2019
Sergei Sharov-Delone
Sergei Sharov-Delone
RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported on 8 November 2019 that one of Russia’s most prominent human rights defenders, Sergei Sharov-Delone, has died at the age of 63. Sharov-Delone’s son, Aleksandr Sharov, and the chairwoman of the Russia Behind Bars rights organization, Olga Romanova, said that Sharov-Delone had died late in the night on November 7 after suffering from cancer. Sharov-Delone was a member of the May 6 Committee that investigated police brutality against protesters during demonstrations in Moscow in May 2012 ahead of Vladimir Putin’s inauguration for a third term as president.

He actively assisted imprisoned activists via the Russian Behind Bars group and coordinated operations of the Moscow-based Public Defenders’ School. Sharov-Delone was a cousin of Soviet-era dissident Vadim Delone — one of seven Soviet dissidents who openly protested on Moscow’s Red Square against the Soviet-led Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

In 2017, RFE/RL released a documentary about Sharov-Delone’s life and activities entitled Defender.

https://www.rferl.org/a/sergei-sharov-delone-/30260023.html

https://www.bignewsnetwork.com/news/263008507/prominent-russian-rights-defender-sergei-sharov-delone-dies-at-63

2018 will go down in history as a year of shame for Iran

January 24, 2019

On 23 January 2019 RFE/RL reported that Iranian human rights defender Reza Khandan got a six-tear prison sentence. The next day Amnesty International issued a damning overview of the situation of human rights defenders in that country: Iran arrested more than 7,000 people in a sweeping crackdown against protesters and dissidents in the past year. See more below:

Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013
Rez Khandan with his wife, Nasrin Sotoudeh, in Tehran in 2013

Read the rest of this entry »

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi goes public with his torture claim and hits a nerve even inside Iran

January 11, 2019
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.
Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi was arrested in November for organizing weeks-long protests at a sugar factory.

Iranian activist Esmail Bakhshi has been out of jail for a month, but says he still bears the physical and psychological scars from being tortured “to the verge of death” during his 25-day jail stay in Khuzestan Province. Bakhshi was arrested on November 20 for his role in weeks-long protests over unpaid salaries at a local sugar factory. He was charged with disruption of public order and collusion against national security and spent weeks in jail before his release on bail on December 12. After detailing his sufferings on Instagram (public letter), Bakhshi challenged Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi, a mid-ranking cleric, to a live TV debate concerning the alleged torture of detainees. “As a cleric, and from the moral and human rights point of view, tell us what is the sentence for those who torture prisoners? Is torturing prisoners permissible? If it is, to what extent? Does the ministry you run have the right to secretly monitor private telephone conversations?

Now Bakhshi’s claims have shined a light into the greater issue of prisoner mistreatment and torture, which rights group say is widespread, and have prompted parliament to launch an investigation. Iranian media reported that a parliament committee has been authorized to investigate Bakhshi’s claims after lawmakers requested a probe. Ali Motahari, an outspoken member of parliament, wrote a column in the reformist Etemad daily on January 6 in which he said Bakhshi’s claims were a “source of shame” and demanded answers from the Intelligence Ministry (“The letter …. should be a wake-up call for all those with a conscience and defenders of citizens’ rights who must follow up this matter until it reaches a clear conclusion.” ).

Since the publication of the labor activist’s letter, Bakhshi’s lawyer has indicated that her client has come under intense pressure to retract his statements about being tortured.

On January 6, 2019, Judiciary Spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei claimed the authorities would investigate if Bakhshi lodged a formal complaint.

“After mentioning torture Esmail Bakhshi has come under intense pressure aimed at forcing my client to deny what happened,” Zilabi said on January 7.

The suggestion that the Intelligence Ministry could be sued has brought reactions from former political prisoners and prisoners of conscience who have suffered torture at the hands of the state. They noted that it is practically impossible to bring torturers to justice and in most cases it was the victims who received punishments for publicizing the torture.

 

After I was released [from more than a month in detention in early December 2004] I gave interviews and spoke to judicial authorities about being tortured,Fereshteh Ghazi, an Iranian reporter living in exile in the US, tweeted on January 6.  “Then I was summoned by [the Tehran Prosecutor at the time, Saeed] Mortazavi and in the presence of my lawyer he told me I had to file a lawsuit, which I did. He said now that the suit had been filed I had to prove my case or else he would lock me up for a long period. So I became a defendant in my own suit.”

Taghi Rahmani, a reporter and political activist who lives in Paris after serving 15 years in Iran’s prisons, tweeted: “In 1991 I was beaten during interrogation. In fact Judge [first name unknown] Haddad had entered the room and witnessed most of the beating. When my attorney [Abdolfattah] Soltani brought up the beatings in court, Judge Haddad sued Soltani and he was sentenced to four months in prison…

Attorney Ali Mojtahedzade suggested that to assure the public that torturers could be sued and brought to justice, the judiciary should first conclude the prosecution of those responsible for previous atrocities, such as the deaths of Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi and blogger Sattar Beheshti during detention.

..Another former political prisoner, Hossein Ronaghi commented: “Sattar Beheshti had said that his interrogator had hung him on the ceiling and beat him. He was terrified about being tortured again”.  [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2013/08/23/observatory-expresses-grave-concern-over-health-of-iranian-hrd-hossein-ronaghi-maleki/]

[The February 2018 report of the UN Secretary-General on Iran stated: “The Secretary-General remains concerned about continuing reports indicating that the practice of torture and ill-treatment in the Islamic Republic of Iran persists. Such reports point to a pattern of physical or mental pressure applied upon prisoners to coerce confessions….” The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Iran also expressed concern in his September 2018 report.]

Kazakh human rights defender Vadim Kuramshin will probably be granted early release

August 2, 2018

 

Vadim Kuramshin in 2012

Radio Free Europe on 1 August 2018 carried the good news that the prominent Kazakh Rights Defender will new granted parole after 6 years In prison. A lawyer for Vadim Kuramshin, Muratbek Irge, told RFE/RL that a court in the northeastern city of Oskemen agreed on August 1 to parole Kuramshin. He will be released in 15 days if the ruling is not appealed and overturned, Irge said. Kuramshin has become known for his efforts to raise awareness of violations of inmates’ rights in Kazakh penitentiaries, including the one where he served his term. He was sentenced to 12 years in prison in 2012 on an extortion conviction. He denies wrongdoing. His supporters say were politically motivated.

In December 2013, while behind bars, Kuramshin was awarded the Ludovic-Trarieux international human rights prize.[see: http://trueheroesfilms.org/thedigest/awards/ludovic-trarieux-international-human-rights-prize]