Next Taunton Amnesty meeting

7 May

Our next monthly meeting will be on Tuesday 9th May at 7:30pm in The Quaker Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton – all welcome. If you’d like to join remotely via Teams then please email and we’ll send you a link.

Hope to see you there!

Football Welcomes Refugees

2 May

As part of the April Amnesty campaign, Football Welcomes Refugees, our Taunton group took a stall to Taunton Town Football Club’s game against Weymouth on Tuesday 25th April. We had an overwhelmingly positive response, people coming up to the stall to sympathise and offer support, taking leaflets and stickers. We also met Zealand Shannon, American ‘football influencer ‘ on YouTube, who came to find out more about Taunton FC. He was very sympathetic to our initiative and said he had donated a sum to Amnesty during the World Cup.

All in all a worthwhile venture and one we hope to repeat next year.

Request to our supporters

12 Apr

We are working for two prisoners of conscience this month, both journalists, one from Morocco, one from Egypt, both imprisoned after grossly unfair trials for criticising their respective governments.

Please send a postcard to the prison in Tiflet where Omar Radi is being held (postage £2.20) and, more urgently, before the 17th April during Ramadan, to the President of Egypt, care of the Egyptian Embassy in London to appeal for the release of Alla Abdelfattah. All details in the photo above.

Many thanks!

April monthly meeting

9 Apr

Our next monthly meeting is on Tuesday 11th April at 7:30pm in the Quaker Meeting House, Taunton. All welcome! If you’d prefer to join us online, email: and we’ll send you a link to a Teams meeting.

Action for Omar Radi

23 Mar

Omar, a journalist from Morocco, was arrested and charged on July 29th 2020 with ‘harming national security’ and ‘rape’ because he had been investigating corruption by the authorities. He was sentenced after a grossly unfair trial to 6 years in prison.

He was awarded the 30th annual Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Prize for Independence in Dec 2021. His mother collected the award in Paris. A question about his case was put down in the House of Commons with the OFCD replying that they are monitoring his case.

In our Amnesty Group each member agreed to send 2 cards to the Minister of Justice in March and 2 to Omar’s prison in April.

Please can you help us by sending a card (£1.85 stamp) to:

Minister of Justice Ben Abdel Kader
Ministry of Justice
Mamounieh Square
P.O. Box 1015

Suggested message: We urge you to drop the espionage charges against Omar Radi and grant him a fair re-trial in line with international standards, for the ‘rape’ charge.


Update from our March meeting

21 Mar

We were updated through the AIUK Local Groups news on Amnesty activities round the country. A section on 2023 Priority Campaigns, including ‘Protect the Protest and Freedom of Expression’, and  ‘Ending Israeli Apartheid’ made disturbing reading. 

There are reports on the Central England Conference and the national Student Conference.  Speaking of Conferences, don’t forget that Amnesty’s South West Conference is in Exeter on 25 March, 10am-4pm,  at the Mint Methodist Church Centre.

We plan to attend the Pride march through Taunton on 22 July, with a stall in Vivary Park.  We’re hoping too for a presence at the BTC Freshers Fair in September.

Regretting the absence of  the actions we used to take for specified individual prisoners, one of our Group has initiated a letter writing programme for Moroccan Omar Radi, an activist and human rights journalist.  First arrested in 2019, and tried on what appear to be spurious charges, his sentence of 6 years imprisonment has recently been confirmed.  We wrote individually to the Moroccan Minister of Justice.

Our Middle East and North African specialist has been writing on behalf of Abderrahmane Zitout of Algeria, imprisoned and on hunger strike, and for Hassan al Rabea, threatened with extradition from Morocco to Saudi Arabia.  The case of Egyptian Alaa ab del Fattah is for the moment on hold while the best way forward is considered by Amnesty.

A newly rejoined member has begun work on Afghanistan. No surprise that women’s rights lead the field of concerns.  The UN Special Rapporteur has a report on this same subject.

We selected as Media of the Month the film Till, the dreadful story of a 14 year old black youth tortured, shot and lynched in Mississipi in 1955,  and his mother’s fight for justice.

Our next meeting will be at the Friends’ Meeting House in Bath Place at 7.30pm on Tuesday 11 April – hope to see .you there!

Write for Rights – today and Saturday

8 Dec

On Thursday 8th December from 10 until 2, people are invited to come to 14 George’s Need, TA1 2LX to sign supportive greetings cards to 3 prisoners of conscience, chosen from 10 in the Write for Rights booklet produced annually by Amnesty UK. We are supporting Aleksandra Skochilemko in jail in Russia for opposing the Ukraine invasion, Shahnawaz Chowdhury a Bangladeshi environmentalist facing jail for posting an opinion on Facebook and Dorgelesse Nguessan from Cameroon in prison for attending her first peaceful demonstration.

Mince pies and homemade cake, tea and coffee offered as reward for good deeds!

We will also have a Write for Rights stall in St Mary Magdalene Church this Saturday (10th December) from 10am until 1.45pm, and there is a lunchtime concert from 12.30pm to 1.30pm. Please pop along!

Report from our November meeting and Write for Rights

1 Dec

Cherry Bird, AIUK’s Country Co-ordinator for South East Asia, gave a talk on Sri Lanka, a once peaceful and prosperous country now mired in conflict. For decades there have been tensions between the majority Sinhalese, Buddhist population and the Tamil minority who are mainly Hindu.  The Tamils are poorer and have felt excluded – remember the Tamil Tigers?

The Civil War  lasted for 25 years, with a draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act enacted in 1979. Amnesty is concerned at the very high number of disappearances – estimated at 60,000.  More recently the country has been ruled, in turn, by the Rajapaska brothers, described as muscular populists. Their time has now passed (one has fled the country) and a new president elected – Ramil Wickremesinghe. He has a lot to sort out.

Cherry reminded us that there’s a Regional Conference in Exeter next March – details to follow.

Members updated the meeting on appeals for a number of political prisoners, most prominently Alaa Abdul Fattah, imprisoned in Egypt and on prolonged hunger strike which has come to a head during the COP 27 conference.  His fate is still uncertain.

As usual our own country co-ordinator for the Middle East and North Africa had been busy: she has written for Moroccan Rida Benotmane, charged with putting up critical Facebook posts. Another Moroccan, Fatimah Kassim is in solitary confinement and has now gone on hunger strike. Mohammed Ben Lima of Algeria has been sentenced to death in absentia, but is now being extradited by Spain.

Cherry made the point that writing to Embassies is an effective way of communicating.  Amnesty’s programme on Kashmir is about to be re-launched. What pressure can be brought to bear on India for their human rights violations in the area?  The UK has trade agreements with them.

Write for Rights

November/December bring us round to Amnesty’s annual letter writing campaign, Write for Rights.  We will have a stall in St Mary Magdalene Church in the town centre from 10am-2pm on Saturday 10 December, which, most appropriately, is Human Rights Day. We will break from 12.30 to 1.30 when the church has a lunchtime concert, Opera Muses.

There’ll be no other December meeting – it would be good to see you on Saturday 10 December, when we’ll have information about this year’s Write for Rights cases.  Come along and write a card to a prisoner of conscience.

Next meeting at the Quaker Meeting House will be Tuesday 10 Jan at 7.30pm.

Report from our September meeting

27 Sep

Garry Ettle, AIUK’s Country Coordinator for Israel and the Occupied Territories, gave us an online talk – ‘End Israeli Apartheid’. Amnesty has recently published a detailed report on this topic, Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians, and is promoting this as one of its current campaigns.

‘Since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, successive governments have created and maintained a system of laws, policies, and practices designed to oppress and dominate Palestinians. This system plays out in different ways across the different areas where Israel exercises control over Palestinians’ rights. However, the intent is always the same: to privilege Jewish Israelis at the expense of Palestinians.’

There are four ways the Israeli authorities enact this system: by fragmentation, dispossession, segregation and deprivation. Garry gave many examples of how this plays out and ran some troubling illustrative video clips of Palestinian repression.

 The aim of AI’s campaign is to increase general awareness, stimulate recognition and foster action.  There needs to be far greater public awareness to put pressure on not only Israel but our own government. There is an online petition you can sign here.

Some of our members are still away and couldn’t report, but we heard reports on the Death Penalty and an update on the human rights situation in India. The crackdown on Amnesty in India continues. The case of the BK15 has been our particular concern; we continued to send  cards, prepared by one of our members,  to some of the BK group.

An update on dual national British/Egyptian Alaa Abdelfattah, long a prisoner of conscience, gave a worrying picture.  Prominent since the events of the Arab Spring in 2011, he has been on hunger strike for months; he has told his mother he expects to die in prison.  Amnesty is currently encouraging members to write to their MPs on his behalf.

Media of the month – the 2017 The Viceroy’s House, available on Netflix, was recommended; it tells the story of the last days of the British Raj, the Mountbattens and partition.

Our next meeting is on Tuesday 11 October at 7.30pm in the Friends Meeting House, Bath Place, Taunton.  All are welcome!

Report from our May meeting

27 May

The main focus of this month’s meeting was a Zoom call, with other Groups, on the role of  AIUK North Africa Country Co-ordinators.  One of our own group works on North Africa, and AI’s Country Co-ordinators, all impressively well-informed volunteers, are extremely active in sending through updates and calls for actions.

They try to keep in close contact with Groups, updating and supporting; they produce an ezine every 3 months and make extensive use of social media.  They aim to produce a good spread of cases.  On the advocacy side they maintain links with the FCDO, who are respectful of the materials Amnesty produces.

We have been working on the case of Egyptian housing officer Ibrahim Ezz el Din  who, by happy chance, was released the day before our May meeting. We were especially pleased as two of our Group have organised a letter bombardment on his case, sending some 50 letters. We now plan to turn our attention to the campaign for Alaa Abdel Fattah, a human rights advocate who also has UK nationality.

We discussed Ukraine – there’s a letter for signature online urging the PM to help the people fleeing Ukraine, our response so far having been ‘slow, chaotic and insufficient’ – and other allied issues of migrant and refugee rights.  The Nationality and Borders Bill has been passed, ‘ripping up the Refugee Convention (a long-standing international agreement) and shamefully abandoning the responsibility it owes to refugees’.

Amnesty is launching a Right to Protest campaign next month (in part a response to the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill) and continues to focus on the threat to human rights in our own country newly underlined by the new Bill of Rights announced in the Queen’s Speech.

We received reports from members on the Death Penalty campaign, Football Welcomes and India. Our India co-ordinator had prepared cards of support for us to send to members of the BK 15 group of political prisoners. We noted that the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, had commented that the US are monitoring  the state of human rights in India.

The Death Penalty report contained the usual depressing list of those imprisoned for decades before execution, or of the mentally impaired executed – Singapore recently executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam, a man with an IQ of 67.

We’re planning a Taunton town centre stall on 25 June – more details next month.

 Our next meeting will be at 7.30pm on 14 June at the Quaker Meeting House, Bath Place.

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