In October last year, I had the privilege of meeting Damian Gallardo for the first time. It is a name I heard many times since 2013, when he was arrested in the middle of the night in his home in Oaxaca; since then Front Line Defenders – with many others – supported him and his family and campaigned for his release. I met him in what had been his home for five years, a high security prison outside Guadalajara, in the state of Jalisco.
Niober had been planning and looking forward to this trip for months. It took him almost two days to reach Havana international airport from his town in Guantanamo, Cuba, but he still arrived well before his flight. He'd budgeted in plenty of time, knowing security is tight and checkpoints are common across the island. At the airport, just before the final security line, an officer from the Ministry of Interior quietly took him to a side. The officer told Niober he could not board the plane.
Well-being is apparently dangerous in Turkey. When my friend Ozlem Dalkiran attended a training workshop on holistic security she was asked to draw something which represented what she was worried about. It is the sort of well meaning flipchart & post-it note psycho-babble which messes with my stress levels, but Ozlem gamely drew a map of Turkey with icons representing people fleeing war in Iraq & Syria in the East and friends in prison in Istanbul.
In September 2016, the man who had ruled Uzbekistan for 27 years died. As often happens when authoritarians pass on, Islam Karimov’s death after so many years in power left questions as to who would fill the vacuum, and whether the country’s new ruler would ease the repressive practices of the past regime. When Shvakat Mirziyoyev quickly emerged as the successor to Karimov, many in the international community believed that there would be some form of liberalisation.
On 7 March, Wikileaks published a trove of documents showing the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) capabilities to remotely hack devices running Android, iOS, Windows, Mac OS X and others. These leaks demonstrate how the CIA and, very likely, other intelligence services, are able to exploit software and operating systems’ vulnerabilities.
My friend Dr Mudawi Ibrahim Adam is currently chained by hands and feet to a wall in Kober Prison in Khartoum. He has been badly beaten. He started a hunger strike on Sunday in protest at his detention without access to a lawyer since the 7th of December 2016. He was allowed a brief visit from his brothers 10 days ago, but has otherwise been denied access also to his family.