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Long Term Cases

 
 

Far too many human rights defenders are currently serving long term prison sentences, upwards of 10 years or longer, for their peaceful and legitimate human rights work. As domestic legal remedies are exhausted, unfair judgments become final, and new stories capture the media and political spotlight, these long term imprisonment cases run the risk of falling off the agenda. At Front Line Defenders we are committed to ensuring that these cases of term term imprisonment of HRDs are not forgotten.

The following 10 cases are illustrative of the many HRD cases where repressive governments around the world have consistently used the law to smear and to silence HRDs.

 

 

Dawit Isaak, Eritrea
 

Dawit Isaak

 

 

 

 

 

Swedish-Eritrean journalist and human rights defender Dawit Isaak has been held incommunicado, without charge or trial, in Eritrea since 2001. The HRD’s present condition and whereabouts are unconfirmed. He has had no contact with relatives, no access to Swedish consular officials, and no recourse to a lawyer since 2001.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Barry Andrews (Ireland, Renew) is committed to championing the case of Dawit Isaak.

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Engineer, entrepreneur and blogger Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức advocated for social and economic reforms in Vietnam before being arrested on 24 May 2009. He was tried and convicted of charges of “attempting to overthrow the people’s administration” and sentenced to 16 years’ imprisonment with five years’ house arrest on release.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Saskia Bricmont (Belgium, Greens/EFA) is committed to championing the case of Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức.

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Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức, Vietnam

 

Pablo López Alavéz, Mexico

 

 

 

Forest and water rights defender, and Zapoteco indigenous leader, Pablo López Alavez has been arbitrarily imprisoned for more than 12 years in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. On 15 August 2010, he was violently and arbitrarily detained by a group of more than 15 unidentified men. Following 7 years in detention without trial, he was found guilty on trumped up murder charges and sentenced to 30 years in prison.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, members of the European Parliament Marisa Matias (Portugal, GUE/NGL), Massimiliano Smeriglio (Italy, S&D) and Marie Toussaint (France, Greens/EFA) are committed to championing the case of Pablo López Alavez.

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Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja has a long history of working to promote human rights across the MENA region, including working with Front Line Defenders as a Protection Coordinator prior to 2011. Due to his leading role as a pro-democracy defender in the protests that began in Bahrain in February 2011, on 9 April 2011, Al-Khawaja was violently arrested in the middle of the night, and subjected to physical and psychological torture in detention. On 22 June 2011, he was sentenced to life in prison.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Saskia Bricmont (Belgium, Greens/EFA) is committed to championing the case of Trần Huỳnh Duy Thức.

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Abdulhadi Al-Khawaja, Bahrain

 

Mohamed Al-Roken, UAE

 

Mohammed Al-Roken

 

On 17 July 2012, a major round up of human rights defenders and government critics in the UAE saw leading Emirati human rights lawyer Mohamed Al-Roken, who was at the forefront of providing legal assistance to victims of human rights abuses in the UAE, detained and subsequently sentenced to 10 years in prison. Due for release on 17 July 2022, this date has now passed and he remains incarcerated, with no comment from the authorities. 

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Maria Arena (Belgium, S&D) is committed to championing the case of Mohamed Al Roken.

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Renowned Uyghur intellectual and human rights defender, Ilham Tohti was an economics professor at the Central University for Nationalities in Beijing [now Minzu University] prior to his arrest in 2014. Rejecting separatism and violence, he worked for over two decades to build understanding between Chinese Hans and Uyghurs. On 15 January 2014, over 20 police officers raided the minority rights defender’s home and he was detained. Despite the defender’s extensive and demonstrable work to heal societal rifts between Uyghur and Han citizens, this detention was later upgraded to formal arrest on charges of “separatism”. On 23 September 2014, he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, members of the European Parliament Salima Yenbou (France, Renew) and Hilde Vautmans (Belgium, Renew) are committed to championing the case of Ilham Tohti.

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Ilham Tohti, China

 

Ilham Tohti

 

 

 

 

 

Emir-Usein Kuku, Crimea
 

emir usein kuku

 

Emir-Usein Kuku advocated for the rights of Muslim ethnic groups in Crimea, and it is this work, together with his refusal to collaborate with the Federal Security Services (FSB) of the Russian Federation, that resulted in his targeted persecution. On 11 February 2016, he was detained together with five other Crimean Tatars and charged with “involvement in a terrorist organisation”. On 12 November 2019, he was sentenced to 12 years in a strict-regime correctional colony in Russia.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Maria Arena (Belgium, S&D) is committed to championing the case of Emir-Usein Kuku.

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As a direct result of her human rights work, human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh has been persistently denied her freedom by Iranian authorities. Imprisoned between 2010 and 2013, the defender was arrested again in June 2018 and sentenced in two different trials to 38 years and 6 months in prison and 148 lashes. She is currently on temporary medical furlough from Evin prison but could be recalled at any time.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, members of the European Parliament Hannah Neumann (Germany, Greens/EFA) and Frances Fitzgerald (Ireland, EPP) are committed to championing the case of Nasrin Sotoudeh.

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Nasrin Sotoudeh, Iran

 

Nasrin Sotoudeh

Server Mustafayev, Crimea

 

hrd_server_mustafayev

Crimean Tatar HRD, Server Mustafayev was the coordinator of Crimean Solidarity; a grass-roots movement created following the annexation of the Crimean peninsula (2014) to support victims of political and religious persecution. On 21 May 2018, he was arrested on charges of “membership of a terrorist organisation” and on 16 September 2020, he was sentenced to 14 years in a strict-regime correctional colony.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, member of the European Parliament Maria Arena (Belgium, S&D) is committed to championing the case of Server Mustafayev.

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Woman human rights defender María Esperanza Sánchez García participated in civic activism since 2018 when a wave of protests took place in Nicaragua. On 26 January 2020 she was arbitrarily detained at a safe house, and following a trial that was marred with irregularities, the defender was found guilty of narco-trafficking and sentenced to 10 years imprisonment and fine.

As part of the FLD-MEP joint initiative to support emblematic cases of imprisoned human rights defenders, members of the European Parliament Robert Biedron (Poland, S&D) and Tilly Metz (Luxembourg, Greens/EFA) are committed to championing the case of María Esperanza Sanchez García.

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María Esperanza Sánchez García, Nicaragua

 

On 24 January 2022, anti-death penalty activist and women and children’s rights defender, Atena Daemi was granted an "early release warrant", granting her unconditional release. First arrested in Iran on 21 October 2014, she was sentenced to 14 years in prison as a direct result of her peaceful human rights activities. She was released on bail in February 2016, and her sentence reduced to 7 years on appeal. Rearrested in November 2016, she was transferred back to prison where she was subjected to systematic punitive and psychological mistreatment. In June 2020, just one month before her expected release, she was charged and convicted on additional charges of “disturbing order” at Evin prison and sentenced to two additional years and 74 lashes. On 24 January 2022 she was granted an "early release warrant", granting her unconditional release.

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Atena Daemi, Iran

 

Atena Daemi

 

Since the initial launch of the Long Term Imprisonment Case campaign in 2012, we have celebrated the release of a number of defenders once sentenced to long prison terms, including the release of WHRD Atena Daemi (Iran) who was unconditionally released in January 2022.

 

We also welcomed the release of a number of W/HRDs into exile, including Tran Thi Nga (Vietnam) released into exile in January 2020 and Germain Rukuki (Burundi) released into exile in June 2021.

 

Sadly, unjustly imprisoned human rights defender Azimjan Azkarov (Kyrgyzstan) died in custody on 25 July 2020 while serving a life sentence on trumped up charges. We continue to demand justice in his case.