To mark the 34th Day of the Imprisoned Writer, PEN Canada invites members and friends to raise awareness of the unjust imprisonment of writers around the world. By writing and sharing letters to writers who have been imprisoned in violation of their right to freedom of expression, you can show that while imprisoned writers are locked away, they are not forgotten.
To start us off, PEN members John Ralston Saul, Katherine Govier, Andrew Pyper, Yann Martel, Linwood Barclay and John Vaillant put pen to paper for three imprisoned writers: Raif Badawi, Khadija Ismayilova and Eskinder Nega.
Katherine Govier to Raif Badawi
Andrew Pyper to Raif Badawi
John Ralston Saul to Raif Badawi
Yann Martel to Eskinder Nega
Linwood Barclay to Eskinder Nega
John Vaillant to Khadija Ismayilova
Saudi Arabian editor and blogger Raif Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (over US$260,000) on charges of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website.’ He was also banned from travel and from participating in the media for 10 years after his release. On 9 January 2015, Badawi received the first 50 of the 1,000 lashes. Subsequent rounds of punishment have been postponed on medical grounds.
Investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova has been sentenced to seven and a half years in prison for embezzlement and tax evasion in Azerbaijan. Well known for her exposures of high level corruption and for her criticism of the Azerbaijani government’s crackdown on opposition voices, she has been the target of a relentless campaign of intimidation and judicial harassment over the last two years. Ismayilova was arrested on 5 December 2014, PEN believes Ismayilova’s imprisonment is politically-motivated response to her work exposing corruption at the highest levels of Azerbaijani society.
Editor and journalist Eskinder Nega was arrested on September 14, 2011 on terrorism-related charges. Nega was arrested for publishing a column disputing the government’s claim that detained journalists were suspected terrorists, and for criticizing the arrest of well-known actor and government critic Debebe Eshetu. Nega was charged with having affiliations with Ginbot 7, a banned political party the government considers a terrorist group and receiving weapons and explosives from neighbouring Eritrea. Nega was convicted on June 27, 2012 and given an 18-year prison sentence.