Human Rights Day 2016
Egyptian medical doctor and computer engineer granted presidential pardons
November 17, 2016
On November 17, 2016, Egyptian vascular surgeon Dr. Ahmed Said and computer engineer Mostafa Ibrahim Mohamed Ahmed were granted presidential pardons, along with 80 other prisoners, after nearly one year in prison on charges related to their peaceful exercise of the rights to assembly and expression. They were released from al-Aqrab (Scorpion) Prison, where they had been held under harsh conditions of confinement, 24 hours after the pardon was announced.
Dr. Said and Mr. Ahmed were arrested in Cairo on November 19, 2015 after taking part in a peaceful commemoration of those who died during the “Mohamed Mahmoud” clashes four years earlier. During the November 2011 clashes, Dr. Said had provided medical care to injured protestors in a field hospital set up nearby. On the anniversary of the clashes, Dr. Said—who works as a surgeon in Germany and was in Cairo on a visit—and his friend, Mr. Ahmed, were part of a group of approximately 30 people who participated in a peaceful, stand-in protest on the 6th October Bridge in Cairo. In December 2015, both men were convicted by the Abdeen Misdemeanor Court on charges related to protesting and assembling without a permit and sentenced to two years in prison.
Iranian-Canadian Anthropologist Released from Prison
September 27, 2016
Iranian-Canadian anthropologist Homa Hoodfar, who had been in jail in Tehran since her arrest on June 6, 2016, left Iran yesterday. She is currently in Oman receiving medical treatment and will return home to Canada when she is strong enough to make the trip. Although charges were never presented to her lawyer, the Iranian press stated in late June that she had been charged with collaborating with a hostile government against national security and with propaganda against the state and quoted the prosecutor as saying she had been “dabbling in feminism.” Professor Hoodfar reportedly was found guilty before a court this weekend and sentenced to several years in prison. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson reported yesterday that she was released on humanitarian grounds including for poor health. In a statement issued yesterday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed Professor Hoodfar’s release and thanked the governments of Oman, Italy, and Switzerland for their “instrumental” assistance in securing her release. (Canada has not had diplomatic relations with Iran since it closed its embassy there in 2012.)
Iranian Physicist Omid Kokabee Granted Parole
August 30, 2016
After more than five years in state custody, Omid Kokabee—an Iranian physicist and Ph.D. student at the University of Texas—has been granted freedom on parole.
Mr. Kokabee was arrested in Iran in February 2011, while visiting his family during the university’s winter break. In 2012, he was convicted on charges related to contact with a hostile government and sentenced to 10 years in prison. In a letter smuggled out of prison, Mr. Kokabee indicated that his arrest came on the heels of his refusal to work on security and military nuclear energy-related projects. Amnesty International considered him to be a prisoner of conscience “imprisoned for spurious charges arising solely from his refusal to work on military projects in Iran and his legitimate scholastic ties with academic institutions outside of Iran.”
Mr. Kokabee—who has long suffered from kidney stones, as well as stomach inflammation, intestinal bleeding, and dental problems without access to medical care—was taken to the hospital on an emergency basis in mid-April 2016. A urologist there diagnosed him with advanced stage renal cell carcinoma and recommended immediate surgery. Shortly thereafter Mr. Kokabee was transferred to a hospital with an advanced urology unit, and, on April 20, his right kidney was removed. One month later, he was granted temporary medical leave after his friends posted the required bail of 5 billion Iranian rials (U.S. $165,000). Every two weeks he was required to apply for his medical leave to be extended. Throughout his imprisonment, the CHR repeatedly requested that Mr. Kokabee receive medical care for his severely deteriorating health.
Angolan Engineer Luaty Beirão Conditionally Released from Prison
July 5, 2016
On June 29, 2016, the Supreme Court in Luanda, Angola ordered the conditional release from prison of engineer and well-known musician Luaty Beirão, as well as other activists, and placed them under house arrest pending a final ruling by Angola’s Constitutional Court. They had been convicted in March 2016 and sentenced to lengthy prison terms.
In June 2015, Mr. Beirão—who holds dual Angolan and Portuguese citizenship—and other activists were arrested after attending a pro-democracy book club meeting during which they discussed a book about non-violent resistance. He and the other attendees (along with other activists associated with the group) were detained for months before receiving official notice of the allegations against them, which included plotting a rebellion against long-serving Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos. The group consistently denied the charges brought against them and maintained that they were peacefully campaigning against President dos Santos. Amnesty International considered the activists to be prisoners of conscience held solely for the peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. While in detention, the activists reportedly were subjected to severe ill-treatment and denied needed medical care.
In March 2016, following a trial that reportedly violated international fair trial standards, Mr. Beirão and his colleagues were convicted of “preparatory acts of rebellion” and “criminal conspiracy.” Mr. Beirão was also convicted of falsification of documents. They received prison sentences ranging from 2 to 8 ½ years. Mr. Beirão was sentenced to 5 ½ years in prison.
Mr. Beirão had been on hunger strike in protest against his incarceration and had been moved to the Sao Paulo Prison Hospital. On the day of the court’s decision, his wife received a call directing her to meet him at the hospital.
Medical Doctor Released from Prison in Myanmar
April 17, 2016
On 17 April, Dr. Myat Nu Khaing was released from Insein Prison as the result of a presidential pardon.
Myat Nu Khaing was arrested in October 2015 in connection with her participation in a protest in Yangon some 10 months earlier. Her arrest took place only weeks before general elections were held in the country, and as she was in the midst of campaigning for election to the Lower House of Parliament as an independent candidate in Phyu Township. Although the protest in which Myat Nu Khaing participated was a peaceful demonstration, she was charged with a number of serious offences and, in March 2016, found guilty of rioting by Dagon Township Court. She was subsequently sentenced to a one-year term of imprisonment.
Appeals Court Dismisses Tunisian Mathematician’s Case and Orders His Release
February 23, 2016
In the evening of February 5, 2016, Tunisian mathematician Abdelfattah Saied was freed from al-Mornaguia Prison in Tunis after almost seven months in prison. His case was dismissed earlier that day by a court of appeals after all charges against him were dropped.
Mr. Saied is a mathematics teacher and recipient of the 2009 Tunisian Ministry of Education’s “Innovative Teacher Award”, a computer programmer, and a poet. In July 2015, after posting a video on the Internet in which he speculated that security forces may have been linked to the planning of the June 2015 attack on a seaside resort in Sousse in which 38 tourists were killed, Mr. Saied was arrested by counter-terrorism police. Although subsequently charged with “complicity in or facilitation of terrorism” under the 2003 counter-terrorism law, “defaming a public servant,” and “knowingly broadcasting false news to convince others of the existence of a criminal act,” he was found innocent of the defamation charges at trial, and the terror charges were dropped. In November 2015, Mr. Saied was convicted of “knowingly broadcasting false news” and was sentenced to one year in prison. During his imprisonment, he reportedly was denied medical treatment for a preexisting back condition.