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Ibrahim Ezz el-Din

11 Mar

An Appeal to our Amnesty Supporters

Taunton Amnesty Group have taken on the case of Ibrahim Ezz el-Din, a young Egyptian researcher specialising in housing at the Egyptian Commission for Rights and Freedom. He was arrested in June 2019 and was ‘disappeared’ for 167 days until November 2019. He alleged he had been tortured. Charges were made with no evidence and in January 2021 a judge decided to release him. He was sent to a police station awaiting release where he was interviewed by the state security force (NSA) who decided to charge him with new offences. He is back in prison. This pattern is common in Egypt. He had twice attempted suicide but has been refused medical help.

Our first action as a group is to attempt a 3-month blitz of letters, each volunteer agreeing to write a letter (rather than an email), on the same day each month, for 3 months (3 letters in all). WOULD YOU HELP US? We would like to cover every day of the month with a letter. Please click here for more details or contact us at amnestytaunton@gmail.com

February meeting and AGM report

13 Feb

We met in person for our AGM. Our Chair reported on another year shaped by the pandemic. However, he reflected that we had nonetheless managed to host a number of speakers on a good variety of topics: the Calais Jungle, Women living under Muslim Law, the Human Rights Act.  There were some notable initiatives, for example contacts with Taunton Town Football Club who joined forces with members of Amnesty Taunton to raise awareness about refugees.

Write for Rights was marked by resilient members of the Group running a stall in Taunton High Street during Storm Arwen – we have a photo taken after the gazebo cover had blown away!

No meaningful fund-raising has been possible during the pandemic and it has been hard to get publicity in the local press, which appears (due to its own pressures admittedly) to have given up on reporting on the activities of local groups.

We had a full Agenda for our regular meeting. After intensive research and legal analysis Amnesty has launched a new campaign to highlight Israel’s ‘crime against humanity of apartheid in its treatment of Palestinians’: ‘Demolish Apartheid, not Palestinian Homes.’

A new online action is planned against the Nationality and Borders Bill. ‘Amongst the many other areas of concern, the Bill seeks to largely shut down the UK’s asylum system and criminalise and punish refugees.’

A new activist-led campaign on Human Rights in Afghanistan is being launched; one  particular aim is to ensure that Afghan women’s rights remain in the public eye.

The Human Rights Act is under threat; the Government has launched a consultation and invites public comment. Amnesty is anxious its members should voice their views, and will shortly have a link on its website.  Links to all the above topics (and many others) are also available amnesty.org.uk

A steady stream of Urgent Actions for North Africa continues.  As a group we are focusing on one particular case, Ibrahim Ezz El-Din, with the aim of blitzing the Egyptian authorities with letters, underlining that they are breaking their own laws in this detention.

Our next meeting will be on Tuesday 8 March at 7.30pm in the Quaker Meeting House, Taunton.

Nazanin and Anoosheh

20 Jan

Many of you will have been following the distressing case of Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, the British woman detained in Iran for nearly five years after a grossly unfair trial. Nazanin is just one UK-Iranian dual-national targeted by the Iranian authorities in recent years.

 Another is Anoosheh Ashoori, a 66-year-old former engineer subjected to a sham trial that involved “confessions” extracted under torture. Amnesty is working closely with both families to press the UK government to do more to secure Nazanin and Anoosheh’s release.

The former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt has recently criticised the government for not doing more to help them. He’s right, and Amnesty will be pressing for more action in the coming weeks. You can stay in touch with Amnesty’s campaign for Nazanin and Anoosheh here, where you can also watch a very moving ten-minute film with the families made shortly before Christmas.

Overseas Operations Bill

19 Jan

The Overseas Operations Bill that the government is attempting to pass is a cause for concern. It would decriminalise torture and war crimes, and could make it even harder to prosecute cases committed by British soldiers more than five years ago. It has been described as an attempt to put the military above the law.

Read Amnesty’s blog ‘Five things you need to know about the Overseas Operations Bill’ here and sign the online petition demanding that the government does not decriminalise war crimes and torture.

Refugee Week 15–21 June

12 Jun

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Refugee Week is a time when we can all celebrate the contribution refugees make to the UK. The theme of this year’s event is ‘Imagine’, and most activities will take place online this year.

To find out how you can take part, have a look on the Refugee Week website. There are  films to watch, writing workshops, book launches, virtual exhibition tours and much more.

To our supporters

31 Mar
Keep Calm and Support AmnestySelf isolation. Funny, isn’t it, how the expression has quickly become part of our everyday language?
But the isolation we, as Amnesty members, read about is of a different order. This is not isolation for the good of the community, with free access to our friends and family by phone, text, email, Facebook and Whatsapp. It is isolation in unsanitary conditions, with poor or little food, often with a ration of torture and no access to lawyers, doctors, friends or family.
So, while you – our supporters and followers out there – are coping with isolation, might you be able to go to the Amnesty UK website to read about Human Rights Defenders?
There are 3 cases you could help with: the Bhima Koregaon 9 (BK9) in India, jailed for fighting for the rights of the poorest in the country; three women in Iran facing 42 years in prison for unveiling; and the women in Saudi Arabia who, having campaigned for the right to drive – a right that has now been granted by the Saudi Government –  find themselves in prison.
You won’t need to write a letter. It is difficult to obtain the correct postage now, so please email or sign the petitions!
Thank you and stay safe.

Death Penalty actions

15 Oct

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If you can, please take a look at the links below to Amnesty
websites with online petitions about Death Penalty cases.
One is for a minor in South Sudan and the other is in
Malaysia for drug offenses.

Thank you.

South Sudan

Malaysia

Unity 5 released!

19 Apr

myanmar_smallerWe were delighted to hear that the Unity 5 journalists, for whom we started working in September 2015, were released on 17th April; they were among 83 political prisoners pardoned by Burma’s new President, Htin Kyaw, as part of the celebrations of the Burmese New Year.

Many thanks to everyone who has written letters and/or signed cards on their behalf.

Help reunite refugees with their families

4 Mar

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If you had family members trying to escape war and persecution, wouldn’t you do everything you could to help them reach you safely?

Unfortunately, for many, current immigration laws make that almost impossible.

Left with no choice, people are forced to embark on life-threatening journeys or seek out a life in miserable and inhumane conditions.

The UK government must open up safe and legal routes to safety.

Demand they amend immigration rules so refugees can be reunited with family members in the UK.

Please take a moment to read more and email your MP by clicking here.

Poet facing execution in Saudi Arabia

10 Feb

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Ashraf, a 35-year-old poet and artist, is sentenced to be executed by Saudi Arabian authorities for his art.

On 17 November, the General Court in Abha, southwest Saudi Arabia, found Ashraf guilty of ‘apostasy’ – renouncing Islam – for his poetry and sentenced him to death.

Arrested for poetry and pictures on his phone

Ashraf was initially arrested on 6 August 2013 following a complaint registered against him by another Saudi citizen, who said that the poet was promoting atheism and spreading blasphemous ideas among young people. Ashraf was released the following day, but then rearrested on 1 January 2014, when he was charged with apostasy – he had supposedly questioned religion and spread atheist thought with his poetry. He was at the same time charged with violating the country’s Anti-Cyber Crime Law for allegedly taking and storing photos of women on his phone.

On 30 April 2014, Ashraf was sentenced to four years in prison and 800 lashes for the charges relating to images of women on his phone. The General Court accepted Ashraf’s apology for the charges of apostasy and found the punishment to be satisfactory.

However, the court of appeal recommended that Ashraf should still be sentenced for apostasy, and his case was sent back to the General Court, which in turn sentenced him to death for apostasy.

Throughout this whole process, Ashraf was denied access to a lawyer – a clear violation of international human rights law, as well as Saudi Arabia’s national laws.

What we’re calling for

Quite simply, we’re calling for Ashraf to be freed. He has committed no crime, and as such should not be imprisoned, let alone face execution.

We’re asking the Saudi Arabian authorities to drop Ashraf’s conviction and all charges against him. We’re also asking for them to stop executing anyone for ‘apostasy’.

Please sign the petition here calling for Ashraf’s release.

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