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Committee on Human Rights
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
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Statement by CHR Chair Torsten Wiesel on Release of Professor Ahn
August 17, 1999

It gives me pleasure and satisfaction to announce that our unjustly imprisoned colleague, Professor Ahn Jae-ku, was granted amnesty and released from prison in South Korea on Sunday, August 15, Korea’s National Day. Professor Ahn had been held in solitary confinement on trumped up charges for more than five years. He was considered by our committee, which privately undertook his case shortly after his arrest, to have been imprisoned solely for the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and association.

Professor Ahn had created and participated in an informal discussion group that nonviolently advocated democracy and Korean reunification. He was charged with espionage in 1994 by the government of Kim Young Sam. Professor Ahn was subjected to a trial that failed to meet international fair trial standards and sentenced to life imprisonment despite that no credible evidence was produced.

In August 1998 President Kim Dae Jung reduced Professor Ahn’s sentence to twenty years. Hundreds of Professor Ahn’s scientific colleagues, both here in the United States and around the world, had long appealed for his release. I thank the scores of members of the NAS, NAE, and IOM who intervened in Professor Ahn’s behalf and the participants in the International Human Rights Network of Academies and Scholarly Societies for their important contributions to the resolution of this case. We are gratified that in recent months we were able to have a private dialogue about the case with the government of Korea both directly and through the good offices of an international scientific organization. Now that Professor Ahn’s freedom has been restored at last, we trust that he will be enabled to return to his scientific work if he decides to do so.