China: Anti-corruption activists on trial
June 25, 2014
On 17 April 2013, Mr. Zhao Changqing and Mr. Ding Jiaxi, members of the anti-corruption New Citizens’ Movement allegedly suspected of having participated in organizing the campaign for public disclosure of assets, were reportedly taken into custody on charges of “unlawful assembly.”
UPDATE 08/04/2014: Ding Jiaxi and Li Wei went on trial in Beijing under heavy security. The two were detained for having called on China’s political leaders to disclose their assets, and are charged with “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” There have been obvious irregularities in both the trial and questioning methods. Ding alleges that he was severely beaten in custody; the defence is not being allowed to speak in their clients’ defence, call witnesses or to cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses; Ding’s lawyer was questioned and physically abused by police during the lunch break; and foreign diplomats were unable to enter the courtroom. Another New Citizens’ Movement activist, Zhao Changqing, is due to be tried on 10 April.
UPDATE 10/04/14: Sui Muqing and Jiang Yuanmin, Ding and Li’s lawyers, walked out of the trial and denounced it as not in conformity with Chinese law after the court refused to provide original (as opposed to photocopied) evidence of the trial. However, it appears that unlike in January, when Ding and Li replaced their lawyers to delay the trial, Sui and Jiang will continue to represent the accused.
UPDATE 18/04/2014: Ding Jiaxi, Zhao Changqing, Li Wei, and Zhang Baocheng all found guilty of “gathering a crowd to disrupt public order.” Ding received three and a half years in prison, Zhao received two and a half, and Li and Zhang received two. All four are likely to appeal.
UPDATE 18/06/2014: Ding and Li’s sentences upheld by Beijing’s intermediate court.
Sri Lanka: student activists arrested, freed on bail
June 23, 2014
On 20 March 2014, arrest warrants were issued by a Sri Lankan magistrate for 15 student activists who were protesting for their right to education. The students were denied permission to protest, but carried the 5000-strong demonstration out anyway, which resulted in the leaders’ arrests. On 27 March 2014, they were released on bail.
On 27 March 2014, Kasim Ahmad, a former social and political activist who is well known for challenging the repression of freedom of expression about Islam, was arrested by police. He was arrested in connection to allegedly disrespectful comments he made about Islamic authorities at a conference on 15-16 February 2014, which the authorities deem to have been in violation of Section 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act.
UPDATE 27/03/2014: Kassim has been charged with quoting two banned books and insulting Islam in a speech, under Section 7(b) and 9 of the Syariah Criminal Offences Act.
UPDATE 26/06/2014: Kassim filed an application for a judicial review to challenge the prosecution’s decision to charge him in the Syariah High Court, and to have to case stayed until the judicial review was complete.
UPDATE 14/07/2014: The Kuala Lumpur High Court dismissed Kassim’s leave application, ruling that the civil court had no jurisdiction to hear the application.
UPDATE 17/07/2014: The Civil High Court ruled that the Syariah High Court has jurisdiction to hear and decide on the case, and set the trial dates for 20-22 October 2014. Kassim also heard a third charge against him, for allegedly questioning whether the hijab constitutes part of the aurat.
Burma: 4 “88 Generation” activists detained
June 23, 2014
On 26 March 2014, Than Naing, Pyone Cho, Mee Mee and Nilar Thein, prominent 88 Generation activists, were detained for having spoken at a peaceful protest in Magwe Division pushing for amendments to the Constitution before the 2015 elections. The four were released after a few hours of detention but face charges under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly Law.
The whereabouts of Abduweli Ayup, a Uyghur language rights activists detained since August 20 2013 in an unknown location, have been revealed. Ayup was detained without charge until May 2014, when he was formally charged with “collecting illegal donations” for the Uyghur-language kindergarten he ran, but his family and lawyer were unable to procure information on his whereabouts. His lawyer recently discovered that Ayup was being held in Liudawan prison, Urumqi, where he awaits trial.
UPDATE 11/07/2014: Ayup and his partners in the language school, Dilyar Obul and Muhemmet Sidik, appeared in court for a one-day trial.
UPDATE 21/08/2014: the court sentenced Ayup to 18 months in jail and imposed an 80, 000 yuan (U.S. $13,000) fine. Sidik was sentenced to two years and three months imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of 130,000 yuan (U.S. $21,130) while Obul got two years imprisonment and was fined 100,000 yuan (U.S. $16,260). All three were convicted of abusing public money. Ayup and Obul will not appeal the decision, but it is not yet known whether Sidik will.
China: founder of human rights website arrested
June 20, 2014
On 13 March 2014, Huang Qi, founder of human rights website 64 Tianwang, sustained a raid on his workplace and was detained in Chengdu. Huang’s detention comes after three writers for the website were detained for reporting on a self-immolation and a defacement of Mao Zedong’s portrait in Tiananmen Square, and may be connected to this event.
In a separate incident, again on 13 March 2014, Liu Hua, a former prisoner at Masanjia labour camp and campaigner for remedy for former prisoners, was detained in Beijing and transported to Liaoning.
Burma: land rights activist charged
June 20, 2014
On 17 June 2014 long-time activist Su Su Nway was charged with organising a protest without governmental permission under Article 18 of the Peaceful Assembly and Peaceful Processions Law. She had helped organise a protest of 1500 farmers in Pwin Oo Lwin who are seeking to have 300,000 acres of farmland allegedly confiscated by private companies and the government returned to them. As of 18 May, Su Su Nway had not reported to police and had not yet been arrested. Under Burmese law, public assemblies must have the permission of local authorities, a provision which is used extensively by the government to severely restrict freedom of expression.
On June 9 2014, Darunee Krittaboonyalai, a businesswoman, Sudsa-nguan Sutheesorn, a lecturer at Thammasat University’s Social Science Faculty, and Picha Vichitsilp, a lawyer for the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship, were sentenced to two months in prison for alleged contempt of court. On February 21 2014, the three had led a group of protesters to lay wreaths and hold placards at the Civil Court on Feb 21, criticising its ruling that the government did not have the right to disperse the Peoples’ Democratic Reform Committee (PDRC) protests. Observers consider the ruling unprecedented, and have commented that it calls into question the judiciary’s neutrality.
On December 24 2013, the Thai navy filed a libel case against Alan Morison and Chutima Sidasathian, editor and journalist respectively for the Phuketwan newspaper, for allegedly implicating it in the human trafficking of Rohingya people by reproducing a Pulitzer Prize-winning Reuters article on the subject. The case is one of thousands of defamation cases filed in Thailand each year, often by powerful actors seeking to silence criticism.
UPDATE 04/04/2014: Morison and Chutima met with members of the National Human Rights Council of Thailand to seek their assistance with the possible upcoming defamation charges by the Thai Navy. The two may be charged under the Computer Crimes Act.
UPDATE 05/06/2014: Morison and Chutima will have to wait until March 2015 to face charges of libeling the Thai Royal Navy in court.
Bangladesh: Odhikar Director Arrested
June 4, 2014
On 6 November 2013, Mr. Elan has been arrested under Section 57 of the ICT Act and Sections 505 (c) and 505A of the Penal Code. A warrant for Mr. Elan was originally issued on 11 September 2013 in connection to a report by the NGO Odhikar on police killings on 5-6 May 2013.
UPDATE 13/11/13: A Joint Urgent Appeal (JUA) on Mr. Elan’s case was addressed to Bangladesh by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and
protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. On 14 November 2013, Bangladesh acknowledged receipt of the communication, but provided no clarification on the matter.