FAMILIES OF AZERBAIJAN'S POLITICAL PRISONERS SPEAK OUT

FAMILIES OF AZERBAIJAN'S POLITICAL PRISONERS SPEAK OUT

FAMILIES OF POLITICAL PRISONERS SPEAK OUT

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

JOIN THE MOVEMENT

CRACKDOWN IN VENEZUELA

CRACKDOWN IN VENEZUELA

CRACKDOWN IN VENEZUELA

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 Join the movement. Stand with political prisoners. Help #SetThemFree.

Every day, governments introduce restrictive laws and policies that shrink civic space and people’s ability to live free and meaningful lives.

In many countries around the world, countless men and women are unjustly imprisoned for defending and promoting fundamental freedoms and equality for all.

#SetThemFree is a GLOBAL campaign to build solidarity with those behind bars.

Our voices are harder to ignore when we speak out as ONE.

Together, we can raise awareness, mobilize others, and engage with stakeholders to achieve their RELEASE.

"If one day, the People will to live, then they must learn to break their chains themselves." - Ahmed Douma

SPOTLIGHT COUNTRIES

NICARAGUA

Since April 2018, Nicaragua cracked down on its citizens and non-governmental organizations due to calls for President Daniel Ortega to resign. Citizens attempting to exercise fundamental rights have suffered violence carried out by police, government-sanctioned paramilitaries, and pro-government mobs. Leaders of NGOs and popular citizens' movements have been targeted with threats and arrest. 

 CUBA

Since Raul Castro assumed power from his older brother Fidel in 2006, Cuba’s democratic space has unfortunately remained limited and restrictive. The government uses arbitrary arrests and other repressive tactics to intimidate human rights activists and journalists seeking to promote democratic values, increase pluralism, and stand up to Cuba’s totalitarian rule.

AZERBAIJAN

baku-protester-story-top

In addition to its rampant corruption and pervasive nepotism, the government has also restricted the work of all independent civil society organizations (CSOs). For the past decade, authorities have prosecuted hundreds of activists, journalists, and public figures on politically motivated charges, such as drug possession, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, and even treason. 

VENEZUELA

Today, Venezuela has more than 700 political prisoners and many more that have fled the country to avoid arrest.  Many of them face charges with no proof or evidence nor have had the benefit of due processes. The Venezuelan government has continued to tighten its control over public space by issuing a resolution authorizing the Armed Forces to maintain “public order” and “social peace” during “public meetings and demonstrations.” 

 

EGYPT

Since the summer of 2013, Egypt’s democratic sphere has faced a heavy crackdown against fundamental freedoms and rights, particularly: freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, freedom of religion, and the right to a fair trial. Many civil society and human rights organizations have been targeted under Egypt's "NGO Law." 

BAHRAIN

Responding to the protests known as the “2011 Pearl Uprising,” the Bahraini regime declared martial law for four months and cracked down on any dissent.  Since the 2011 protests, members of opposition political “societies” have been arrested and the government has established a culture of impunity for those responsible for jailing, torturing, and killing members of the opposition.

“Egypt” Photo Credit: Alisdare Hickson (Flickr/Creative Commons); “Ethiopia” Photo Credit: Elvert Barnes (Flickr/Creative Commons), “Nicaragua” Photo Credit: Alisdare Hickson (Flickr/Creative Commons)

PRISONERS OF CONSCIENCE are individuals who have been jailed because of their political, religious beliefs, ethnic origin, sex, color, language, national or social origin, economic status, or sexual orientation.

They are also mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, friends, neighbors, mentors, and colleagues.

They are like ANY OF US who care about human rights and democracy for all.

AND THEY NEED OUR HELP.

Get to know the stories of 25 prisoners, and scroll through their profiles below. 

 

Tale Bagirzade

Tale Bagirzade

AZERBAIJAN / Detained November 16, 2015

Tale Bagirzade is a Shia theologian, head of the Muslim Unity Movement, and well-respected public figure. Tale has been an outspoken advocate of the peaceful Islamic movement and the rights of the religious community. He has also been vocal with his criticism of the ruling elite in Azerbaijan. On November 26, 2015, Tale and 14 fellow religious activists were arrested during a deadly police raid in the Nardaran district. The authorities claimed that the Muslim Unity Movement aims to “overthrow the constitutional order” and characterizes it as a terrorist group. However, it is believed that the raid was part of the government’s campaign to consolidate power and silence dissent by labeling them as extremists.

LEARN MORE

 

Fuad Ahmadli

Fuad Ahmadli

AZERBAIJAN / Detained August 18, 2016

Fuad Ahmadli is the head of Youth Committee of Azerbaijan Popular Front Party Khatai District Branch. Shortly after he helped organize an opposition demonstration, he was arrested on August 18, 2016. He was held incommunicado for ten days, during which his family and lawyer were not informed about his location. He was charged with “abuse of power” and “conducting unauthorized operative-search.”

On June 16, 2017, he received a four-year prison sentence. Fuad and his lawyer maintain that the criminal case against him was retribution for his peaceful activism.

Afgan Mukhtarli

Left: Afgan Mukhtarli © Meydan TV / Right: Protesters commemorate one year since the kidnapping of Afgan Mukhtarli. Mukhtarli reported that his abductors kept a bag over his head as they took him to Azerbaijan. © Human Rights House Foundation

AZERBAIJAN / Kidnapped May 29, 2017

“You can arrest or kill us, but others will continue the struggle. Our goal is not to overthrow Ilham Aliyev, but to give people hope.”

Afgan Mukhtarli is a well-known investigative journalist and political activist based in Tbilisi, Georgia, where he had been living in exile to avoid persecution in Azerbaijan. Afgan has contributed to RFE/RL Azeri Service, Meydan TV, the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, and Eurasianet.org. Prior to his imprisonment, Afgan was investigating the offshore business of top Azerbaijani officials in Georgia. On May 29, 2017, he was kidnapped in Tbilisi and forcefully taken to Baku where he was put in prison. He is facing fabricated charges of smuggling, illegal border crossing, as well as violently resisting a law enforcement official.

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Ismail Alexandrani

EGYPT / Detained on November 29, 2015

Ismail Alexandrani is a well-known journalist and researcher. Alexandrani was sentenced to 10 years in prison on May 22, 2018 on politically-motivated charges of “divulging state secrets” and “membership of a banned group,” for his vocal concern over military action in the contested Sinai Peninsula. 

Ismail Alexandrani was sentenced to 10 years in prison on May 22, 2018 on politically-motivated charges of “divulging state secrets” and “membership of a banned group,” for his vocal concern over military action in the contested Sinai Peninsula. This military activity has reportedly left thousands of civilians homeless and without stable access to food and other necessities. After spending nearly three years in pretrial detention—illegal under Egyptian law—the State Security Prosecution transferred his case to a military court without informing his legal counsel. When the court finally sentenced Alexandrani in absentia, he was not provided official confirmation and only learned via word of mouth. Following his conviction, a series of contradictory statements by Egyptian authorities sowed further confusion among his family and international community regarding the status of his case. His sentence was upheld by a military court on December 24, 2018.

When he was arrested, more than 70 international scholars signed a letter calling for his release, which noted: “Alexandrani is one of Egypt’s brightest young researchers, who has spent the last few years doing ground-breaking work on the marginalized areas of Egypt…[his] arrest is a repression of free speech and should be condemned.”At the time of his sentencing, the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) warned that the arrests of prominent democracy advocates signal President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s intention to further transform Egypt from an environment that “limits independent political space” to one that “wants to eliminate it entirely.” Since his virtually-uncontested re-election in March 2018, President al-Sisi has increasingly targeted civil society and media with arbitrary detentions and judicial harassment.

Alexandrani has published award-winning articles and research papers which have been published in Arabic, English, and French. In 2009, he was the global winner of the World Youth Movement for Democracy’s International Essay Contest on Youth and Democracy and in 2014, the Open Eye-Hany Darweesh Award for Exceptional Essay award. In 2009, he was a global winner of the World Youth Movement for Democracy’s International Essay Contest on Youth and Democracy. Click here to read his winning essay for the World Youth Movement for Democracy’s International Essay Contest on Youth and Democracy .

In addition, Alexandrani was the Visiting Arab Journalist Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, based in Washington, D.C. The World Movement for Democracy joined the Egyptian human rights community, Human Rights Watch, and Committee to Protect Journalists in calling for Alexandrani’s release. Lend your voice and share a solidarity tweet to help #SetThemFree!

You can follow the developments of his case by following Khadeega Ga’far (Alexandrani’s wife) on Twitter (@Khadeega).

 

 

Seymur Hazi (Haziyev)

Seymur Hazi (Haziyev)

AZERBAIJAN / Detained August 29, 2014

Seymur Hazi (or Haziyev) an Azerbaijani journalist, a reporter for the newspaper Azadliq, a leading anchor for opposition satellite Azerbaijan Saati (Azerbaijani Hour) TV program and a senior politician with the Front Party of Azerbaijan. He is accused of hooliganism. Authorities said that while waiting for a bus on his way to work, Hazi attacked and beat a Baku resident. In January, 2015 he was sentenced to five years in jail. Lend your voice and share a solidarity tweet to help #SetThemFree!

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Abduljalil Al-Singace

Abduljalil Al-Singace

BAHRAIN / Detained March 17, 2011

Abduljalil Al-Singace, arrested on March 17, 2011, is a Bahraini human rights activist, engineer, and blogger who managed the blog “Al-Faseela,” which frequently highlighted criticism on the lack of freedom in Bahrain. Following his arrest, a military court quickly sentenced him to life in prison for “plotting to overthrow the government.”

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Sheikh Abdullah Isa Al-Mahroos

Sheikh Abdullah Isa Al-Mahroos

BAHRAIN / Detained August 13, 2010

On April 1, 2011, Bahraini police arrested Sheikh Abdullah Isa Al-Mahroos, religious leader, member of the pro-democracy group Bahrain 13, and Vice President of the Al-Zaharaa Society of Orphans. During his arrest, police blindfolded and brutally beat Al-Mahroos in front of his family. Shortly after, a military court charged him with “conspiring against the government and plotting to overthrow the regime” and sentenced him to 15 years in prison. Like other Bahraini political prisoners, Al-Mahroos has been repeatedly tortured and denied medical access while behind bars.

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Zeynab Jalalian

Zeynab Jalalian

IRAN / Detained in July 2007

Zeynab Jalalian is an Iranian political activist, member of the ethnic group in the Middle East, Kurdish. According to her family she was arrested in July 2007. On 26 November 2009 the Supreme Court confirmed her death sentence on charges of “moharebeh (enmity with God),” and “cooperation with Party For Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK)”, which she denies. That was the day before, Zeynab wrote a letter in which she claimed to have been tortured. Her death sentence has now been commuted to life imprisonment.

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Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

Abdulhadi Al Khawaja

BAHRAIN / Detained April 9, 2011

Bahraini authorities arrested Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, former President and Co-Founder of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights (BCHR), for his involvement in the country’s peaceful 2011 pro-democracy Pearl Uprising. Three months later, he was sentenced to life imprisonment for allegedly organizing and managing a “terrorist organization,” (which most civil society organizations are classified as in Bahrain), and attempting to overthrow the government.

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Nabeel Rajab

Nabeel Rajab

BAHRAIN / DETAINED June 13, 2016

Nabeel Rajab is a prominent human rights defender and President of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR). On June 13, 2016, Bahrain authorities arrested and detained Rajab for the third time since 2014. Nabeel’s health has deteriorated in jail, and on several occasions, he has been denied medical treatment for his heart condition.

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Ahmed Douma

Ahmed Douma

EGYPT / Detained December 3, 2013

Ahmed Douma was a leading figure in the pro-democracy revolution that forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down.  In December 2013, he was arrested at his home, following a protest organized by the No Military Trials for Civilians campaign in defiance of a new restrictive protest law. The protests was violently dispersed by the police. He was convicted of rioting, inciting violence and attacking security forces. Within days he was sentenced for his participation in illegal protests under the new protest law. In February 2015, the Cairo Criminal Court sentenced him to life imprisonment. This was later commuted to 15 years imprisonment.

READ MORE

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