PEN Canada Honorary Members released since January 2003
Saudi blogger, Raif Badawi, was released on March 11, 2022, after 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes for “insulting Islam” and “founding a liberal website”. When Badawi finished serving his sentence on February 28, 2022, Saudi officials refused to release him. Only after international calls for his release was Badawi freed on March 11, but he remains under a 10-year travel ban, preventing his reunion with his family in Canada, and faces a 10-year ban on participating in visual, electronic, and written media.
Ashraf Fayadh was freed from a Saudi prison in August 2022 after serving eight years and eight months and receiving 800 lashes for blasphemy-related charges, including “insulting the divine self and the prophet Mohammed,” “spreading atheism,” “refuting the Qur’an” and “insulting the King and the Kingdom,” among other charges. Evidence compiled against him included at least 10 pages from his collection of poetry, Instructions Within, published by the Beirut-based Dar al-Farabi in 2008 and later banned from distribution in Saudi Arabia. On November 17, 2015, the General Court of Abha sentenced Fayadh to death for the crime of being an infidel (kufr) following a re-trial. The court argued that Fayadh’s repentance for the crime of apostasy was a matter of the heart and should have no bearing determining whether or not the crime had been committed. Fayadh appealed the sentence. In February 2016, a Saudi Arabian court replaced the death sentence with an eight-year prison term and 800 lashes. Fayadh received PEN Canada’s One Humanity award in 2017.
Journalist Reeyot Alemu was released from Kaliti Prison in Addis Ababa on July 9, 2015. The release came a day after five other Ethiopian journalists were freed ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama’s first state visit to Ethiopia on July 27. Alemu was arrested on June 21, 2011and charged with planning and conspiring a terrorist act; possessing property for terrorist acts and participating in the promotion or communication of a terrorist act. On January 19, 2012 she was sentenced to 14 years in prison. In August 2012, an appeals court acquitted Alemu of the first two charges and reduced her sentence to five years. On January 8, 2013, Ethiopia’s Court of Cassation rejected Alemu’s final appeal to have the charges dismissed. While in prison Alemu was reportedly been held in unsanitary conditions and suffered deteriorating her psychological and physical health.
Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, members of the Russian punk band Pussy Riot were granted an amnesty on the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution and released December 23, 2013, several weeks before the end of their two-year sentence. Ekaterina Samutsevich, the third band member was released in October 2012. On August 17, 2012 Pussy Riot members were jailed for two years under Article 213 of the Russian Criminal Code. The three women had been held in custody since early March. In February the band members entered into the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow wearing colourful masks and performed a song with the aim of highlighting the close relationship between the Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin. The women were arrested two weeks later. Their trial began in July. During the trial the women were locked in a bulletproof cage and, according to their lawyers, were not given food or water for long periods. The prosecution and its witnesses argued that the band had shown a deep hatred of all Orthodox Christians and was not motivated by outrage at the Putin regime, as they had claimed. PEN International, which monitored the trial, found the defence was repeatedly denied the right to make objections, to call witnesses and even, at times, to speak.
Ayşe Berktay, translator, scholar, author, and cultural and women’s rights activist was released by the Istanbul 15th High Criminal Court on December 20, 2013 – along with five others – after 27 months of pre-trial detention. In October 2011, she was charged under Turkey’s Anti-Terror Law with “membership of an illegal organization” for allegedly “planning to stage demonstrations aimed at destabilizing the state, plotting to encourage women to throw themselves under police vehicles so as to create a furor, and attending meetings outside Turkey on behalf of the Kurdistan Communities Union.” Berktay is one of more than 1,800 people, including many writers and academics, swept up in mass arrests of supporters of Kurdish rights in Turkey. She is a member of the pro-Kurdish Party for Peace and Democracy (BDP), which has 36 elected representatives in the Turkish Parliament. Berktay’s trial date is set for January 30, 2014. If found guilty, she could face up to 15 years in prison.
Nasrin Sotoudeh, a prominent writer, journalist and lawyer, was released on September 19, 2013 after serving more than half of a 6-year prison sentence for “propaganda against the state.” Sotoudeh is believed to have been charged for critical interviews given to overseas media following Iran’s disputed 2009 presidential election and for her membership in the Association of Human Rights Defenders. In mid-September 2011, Sotoudeh’s original 11-year sentence was commuted to six years. In October she received PEN Canada’s One Humanity Award on the opening night of the International Festival of Authors.
Shi Tao, poet, journalist and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre was released in September 2013, 15 months before the end of his 10-year sentence. He was arrested on November 24, 2004 and sentenced on April 27, 2005 for “leaking state secrets abroad.” The prosecution of Shi Tao was based on an email he sent to the editor of a New York-based Website detailing media restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities prior to the 15th anniversary of the June 3, 1989 crackdown on the pro-democracy protests. Information supplied by the Internet Service Provider Yahoo! Inc. was used to convict him. He worked for the Changsha-based daily Dangdai Shang Bao (Contemporary Business News) until May 2004, when he became a freelance journalist and writer. He is a published poet, and is known for his social commentaries published on overseas Chinese language media such as Democracy Forum.
On April 19, 2013 the Uzbek writer, Mamadali Makhmudov was released after serving a 14-year prison sentence for his involvement in a series of bombings in Tashkent, and an apparent assassination attempt against President Karimov. There was little evidence to substantiate these charges and human rights groups in Uzbekistan and elsewhere rose to his defence. Makhmudov‘s sentence expired in February 2013, but he was sentenced to three years additional imprisonment on April 8, for breaking prison regulations. Makhmudov had appealed this new sentence and was waiting for a response when he was unexpectedly set free. On his release the 72-year-old writer met his five grand-children for the first time.
The poet and essayist Zheng Yichun released from Nanshan Prison in Jinzhou, Liaoning Province on December 19, 2011, after completing a seven-year sentence for “inciting subversion of state power.” A prominent critic of the government, Zheng remains subject to deprivation of political rights for three years after his release; members of his family are forbidden from accepting overseas interviews.
The Burmese poet and comedian Maung Thura, better known by his professional name “Zarganar” was released in a mass amnesty for political prisoners in October 2011. Zarganar was arrested in 2008 and charged with seven offences under the Criminal Code, the Unlawful Associations Act, the Video Act and sections of the Electronics Act. On November 21, 2008 he was sentenced to 45 years for violating the Electronics Act. Days later, he received a further 14-year sentence under the criminal code for charges related to his peaceful opposition activities. The sentences were commuted by 24 years in February 2009.
Muhammad Bekzhon (“Bekjanov”) was reportedly released in March 2011 after the expiry of a 15-year prison sentence. In March 1999, he was deported from Ukraine following accusations of his involvement in a series of explosions in Tashkent. Bekjanov’s arrest is thought to be linked to his association with the exiled opposition leader Muhammed Salih (his brother), and to his work for the opposition party’s newspaper erk, which has been banned since 1994. A 2003 report by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture referred to allegations of torture that had resulted in Bekjanov’s leg being broken and it mentioned reports that he had contracted tuberculosis while in prison. In October 2006, Bekjanov’s wife had visited him in prison and reported that he was still suffering severe beatings.
Normando Hernández González, a journalist (Cubanet) and the director of the news agency Camagüey College of Independent Journalists (Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey), was released from Kilo 7 prison and arrived in Spain on July 14, 2010 following a deal brokered by the Catholic Church and the Spanish government in early July. Hernández had been serving a 25-year prison sentence handed down under Article 91 and other provisions of the Criminal Code in the 2003 “Black Spring” crackdown on Cuba’s dissidents.
Aung San Suu Kyi, a writer and the leader of the National League for Democracy (NLD), was kept in ‘protective custody’ following violent clashes between opposition and pro-government supporters on May 30, 2003. She was held under successive house arrest orders at her home in Yangon until May 14, 2009, when she was detained under Section 22 of the State Protection Law for “subversion,” following an incident in which a US citizen reportedly swam across the lake to her home and in doing so violated the ban on her meeting with anyone without prior permission. Her trial began on May 18, 2009 and she received a three-year prison sentence from a criminal court inside Insein Prison on August 11, 2009. The verdict was reduced to 18 months to be served under house arrest, and she was returned to her home soon after the trial ended. Aung San Suu Kyi was released unconditionally on November 13, 2010. She had spent much of the past 20 years in detention.
Sayed Parwez Kambakhsh, a journalism student in Afghanistan, was arrested for blasphemy in October 2007 after circulating an article from a Farsi website which questioned the Prophet Mohamed’s views on the role of women in Islamic societies. In January 2008, at a closed hearing with no legal representation, Kambakhsh was found guilty of blasphemy and sentenced to death. His trial lasted less than 10 minutes. In October 2008 a higher court in Kabul commuted the sentence to 20 years in prison for “questioning Islam.” Kambakhsh’s lawyers appealed the sentence the Supreme Court of Afghanistan but it was confirmed at a closed hearing in February 2009. He was released in September 2009 and has left Afghanistan.
China and the Tibet Autonomous Regions
The Uighur historian and writer Tohti Tunyaz (pen-name: Tohti Muzart) was released on February 10, 2009 from Prison No. 3 in Urumqi, Xinjiang province, after serving an 11-year prison sentence for “stealing state secrets” and “inciting national disunity.” Although Tohti has served his entire sentence, it is believed that he remains under travel restrictions imposed by the Chinese authorities. Tohti was arrested on 6 February 1998 while on a research trip in Urumchi, Xinjiang, Uighur Autonomous Region. At the time he was studying for a PhD in Uighur history and ethnic relations at Tokyo University in Japan. The charges against him are thought to be linked to his research, specifically to The Inside Story of the Silk Road, a book he allegedly published in 1998. The Chinese government has claimed that the book advocates ethnic separation, but no such book appears to exist. Tohti was convicted on 10 March 1999 by the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court and, following an appeal, sentenced by the Supreme Court on 15 February 2000 to a total of 11 years’ imprisonment and two years’ deprivation of political rights. His wife, who has been living in Japan for many years, obtained Japanese citizenship. She has asked the Chinese authorities to permit Tohti to return to Japan for medical treatment and to continue his studies at Tokyo University.
The Canadian-Iranian journalist, writer and film-maker Maziar Bahari was one of more than 20 journalists arrested in Iran following the disputed presidential elections on June 12, 2009. On October 17, 2009, Bahari was released on bail ($300,000) and he has since left Iran. PEN Canada calls for his charges to be dropped and for the immediate and unconditional release of all those still detained in Iran for peacefully exercising their right to free expression.
China and the Tibet Autonomous Regions
Hu Shigen is a university lecturer, political activist and dissident writer who was arrested September 27, 1992 and charged with “counterrevolutionary crimes” for planning June 4 memorial activities in many of China’s major cities. Hu was released on August 26, 2008 after serving 16 years of a 20-year jail sentence for setting up a political party in defiance of a ban by ruling Communist authorities. He is still deprived of is political rights and not allowed to speak to the media. Hu was a founding member of the China Freedom and Democracy Party (CFDP) and China Free Trade Union (CFTU) and has campaigned for government accountability for the violent suppression of the Democracy Movement in June 1989. He was originally sentenced to 20 years in prison and five years’ deprivation of political rights and was held in Beijing No. 2 Prison.
China and the Tibet Autonomous Regions
Ngawang Phulchung, a senior monk in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa and an honorary member of PEN Canada, was released on October 29, 2007, six months before his sentence was due to expire.
Writer, translator and barrister Nasser Zarafshan was released on 17 March 2007. It is believed that international pressure contributed to his release. Zarafshan was arrested in October 2000 after giving a speech in which he stated that the intelligence services had murdered five Iranian intellectuals in 1998 in Tehran. He was initially charged with publishing information about the assassinations, imprisoned in December 2000, and released after one month, pending trial. While in detention, Zarafshan’s office was reportedly searched, and weapons and alcohol were allegedly found. Zarafshan was sentenced on 19 March 2002, to five years’ imprisonment (two years for disseminating state secrets, three years for the possession of firearms) and 70 lashes for the possession of alcohol. Zarafshan denied the firearms and alcohol charges and claimed these were planted in his office by the authorities.
Writer Nguyen Vu Binh was released from prison June 9, 2007 under amnesty following international pressure.
Journalist Gao Qinrong was released from prison on 7 December. His freedom came five years ahead of his expected release, in 2011, when his sentence was due to expire. Gao was arrested in December 1998 after writing about corruption at an irrigation project in Shanxhi Province in central China. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison in April 1999 for “corruption” and “pimping”.
Iranian-Canadian scholar Ramin Jahanbegloo was released from prison on 30 August. He had been held without charge in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison since the end of April 2006. It is thought that Jahanbegloo was released on bail; however, no confirmation on that detail has yet been made. Jahanbegloo was arrested, allegedly under charges of espionage and for violating security measures in April, but was never formally charged while in custody. In July, Intelligence Minister Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejehi accused Mr. Jahanbegloo of being involved in U.S. efforts to overthrow the Iranian government.
Cyber-dissident Pham Hong Son was released on 30 August, several months ahead of his scheduled release. However, he faces three years of restricted movements and government surveillance. Son, a medical doctor who spent more than four years in prison after posting pro-democracy writings on-line, was included in a presidential amnesty apparently intended to clear the way for Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization.
On 3 April, a court in the capital, Tashkent, freed Sobirjon Yakubov, a reporter for the state-run weekly newspaper Hurriyat (Liberty), for lack of evidence against him. Yakubov was detained on 11 April 2005, on suspicion of religious extremism and participation in an illegal Islamic organization, and criminally charged three days later with “undermining the constitutional order of Uzbekistan”. Yakubov’s colleagues said the charges against him were politicized and he was being punished for writing about Islam and advocating democratic reforms, according to press reports.
On 17 March, journalist Akbar Ganji was released from Evin prison. He was granted a conditional release in advance of the Iranian New Year, which began on 21 March. It was highly unlikely that Ganji would be returned to jail. He was said to be in weak health and very thin because of a series of hunger strikes in 2005; however, he was expected to recover fully. Ganji spent nearly six years behind bars.
Journalist Yu Dongyue was released from prison on 22 February after having spent nearly 17 years behind bars. In 1989, Yu was sentenced to 20 years in jail following the Tiananmen Square massacre. He had been one of the individuals who defaced the portrait of Mao Zedong that overlooks the square. Because of repeated torture and appalling conditions in prison, Yu Dongyue is now clinically insane.
Charges against Honorary Member Orhan Pamuk were dropped in January 2006. The renowned author had been charged with denigrating Turkish identity over comments that he made to a Swiss newspaper in 2005. Pamuk faced up to three years in prison if convicted. Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code, under which Pamk was tried, threatens the freedom of expression rights of many other Turkish writers and editors.
Journalist Jiang Weiping was released on 6 January, almost one year prior to the official expiration of his sentence. According to Jiang’s wife, he was released for good behaviour. It is also believed that consistent pressure from PEN Canada and diplomatic authorities played a key role in securing his freedom. Jiang had been sentenced in 2001 to six years in prison for reporting on official, high-level corruption.
Editor Ali Mohaqiq Nasab was released from prison in December after having served just over two months of his sentence. The rest of his six-month term was suspended. He had been given a two-year prison term – later reduced on appeal to six months – for articles published in his magazine Haqoq-e-Zan (Women’s Rights) that were deemed to be “un-Islamic” and blasphemous.
Journalist Paul Kamara was released from prison on 29 November after having spent 14 months behind bars. The Freetown Appeal Court overturned his 4 October 2004, conviction by Judge Bankole Rachid, who had sentenced him to two concurrent 24-month sentences for “seditious defamation”. Kamara left the court smiling, accompanied by his wife and daughter, the staff of his newspaper, other journalists and his lawyer.
Honorary Member Nguyên Hông Quang was released from a forced labour camp on 31 August, apparently due to international pressure, two days before Vietnam’s national holiday on 2 September. The dissident writer, lawyer and General Secretary of the banned Vietnamese Mennonite Church was arrested on 8 June 2004, for allegedly “instigating others to obstruct persons carrying out official duties”, after police searched his house in Ho Chi Minh City.
Newly-crowned King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia issued a royal pardon on 8 August releasing Ali Al-Domaini, Matrouq Al-Faleh and others. They were to be released from jail shortly. Al-Domaini and Al-Faleh were among thirteen leading intellectuals and peaceful reform advocates who were arrested in March of 2004 for expressing dissatisfaction with the composition of a new government human rights organization and announcing their intentions to set up an independent human rights monitor. In May, Al-Domaini was sentenced to nine years in prison, while Al-Faleh received a six-year prison term. They were convicted of “stirring up sedition and disobeying the ruler.”
Tibet Autonomous Region
Dreping monk Jamphel Jangchub was released from prison in early April 2005. After having initially been detained for his involvement in Tibet’s first major demonstration after the Cultural Revolution on 27 September 1987, he was arrested on 19 April 1989, and then sentenced in November to 19 years’ imprisonment for involvement with a clandestine pro-independence organization set up by monks from Drepung monastery. He was accused of “illegally establishing a separatist organization at the monastery, collecting secret intelligence, slipping across the frontier, distributing leaflets advocating Tibetan independence and taking part in the March 1989 riots”. In 1994, Jamphel Jangchub’s sentence was reduced, reportedly because of good behaviour.
The administrative detention of writer Nguyen Xuan Tu expired in March 2005. He had been under effective house arrest since May 2000, when he became the subject of a police inquiry for treason. He was suspected of being involved in the drafting of an open letter appealing for democracy being prepared by a group of intellectual dissidents. On 9 February 2001, police in Dalat issued a two-year house arrest order against him for “making contact with reactionaries living abroad to sabotage Vietnam” and “demanding the overthrow of the Communist Party”. He was reported to be held in total isolation in his Dalat home, with all mail censored and no telephone communication allowed. Nguyen Xuan Tu’s formal administrative order was renewed for a further two years in March 2003.
Religious cleric and writer Hojjatoleslam Hassan Eshkevari was released from prison on 6 February 2005. He was freed after serving two-thirds of his seven-year jail term. A condition of his release is that Eshkevari will no longer be permitted to wear the cleric’s robes. The cleric was arrested on 5 August 2000, upon his return from a conference on Iran in Berlin sponsored by the Heinrich Böll Foundation. He was charged with apostasy and “corruption on earth”, which are capital offences. A verdict was issued in October 2002 of a total of seven years for the “crime” of expression of thought.
On 3 January 2005, poet and journalist Aung Myint was released from prison. He was among some 25 political prisoners released ahead of Myanmar’s Independence Day celebration on 4 January. Aung was charged with violating the State Protection and Emergency Provision Acts and sentenced by a military court on 20 December 2000, to 21 years’ imprisonment. He was detained in September 2000, for distributing a press release internationally shortly after security forces had arrested Aung San Suu Kyi.
Raúl Rivero Castañeda was released from prison on 30 November 2004. The 59-year-old poet and journalist was freed for medical reasons, following the release of three other dissidents the same week. Rivero was detained as part of a crackdown on opposition voices that led to the arrest of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Prior to his arrest, Rivero had signed, along with other intellectuals, an open letter to the Cuban government calling for more openness and freedom in the country. After a one-day trial, Rivero was sentenced on 7 April 2003, to 20 years in prison.
On 21 October 2004, Uzbek journalist Ruslan Sharipov arrived in the United States of America, where he was granted asylum after fleeing Uzbekistan in the face of serious threats to his safety. Sharipov, who had served 10 months in prison and was continuing his sentence under house arrest, fled Uzbekistan in June and was living in Moscow until his asylum was approved. Sharipov had been sentenced to four years in prison in August 2003 for “engaging in homosexual acts” – a pretext to silence him and stop his human rights work. He was held in a high security prison from his arrest in May 2003 until March, when he was transferred to house arrest. Sharipov was the founder of the Union of Independent Journalists of Uzbekistan.
Guo Qinghai was released on 14 September 2004, upon expiry of his prison sentence. He had been arrested in September 2000 and sentenced to prison on 6 April 2001, following a short closed trial. He was arrested on charges of “subverting state power” for publishing articles and editorials on the Internet. Although free, Guo began to serve a three-year deprivation of political rights that commenced the day of his release. According to the Chinese law, he has no right to freedom of expression, publication, assembly and association as well as the right to elect and to be elected. He lives with his wife and is recovering from sciatica, which began while in prison. Guo has reportedly already defied the order to deny him his political rights and begun to write articles and send them abroad for publication.
Liu Weifang is believed to have been released from prison sometime in late 2003 or early 2004, upon expiry of his sentence. An Internet publisher and small business owner, Liu was arrested in October 2000 and sentenced in Xinjiang in north-western China, to three years’ imprisonment. According to a 15 June 2001, report in the Xinjiang Daily, the Ninth Agricultural Brigade district’s Intermediate People’s Court in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region convicted him of inciting subversion against state power.
Tibet Autonomous Region
Tibeten monk Ngawang Gyaltsen was released in June 2004, after having spent 15 years in Drapchi Prison in Lhasa, Tibet. Ngawang, a member of the Drepung Monastery Printing Group, had originally been sentenced to 17 years in prison. However, he secured an early release after getting a sentence reduction of two years. Ngawang was first arrested on 27 September 1987, following a protest organized by him and 20 other Drepung monks. He was released after four months detention at Gutsa Detention Centre. After his release, he and the other monks pasted and distributed pamphlets calling for freedom and human rights in Tibet. Chinese border guards detained Ngawang on 13 May 1989 as he attempted to make his way to Nepal. On 28 November 1989, he was sentenced to 17 years in prison with deprivation of political rights for five years on charges of “counter-revolutionary propaganda” and “illegally crossing the border.” Also in 2004, monk Ngawang Oeser was released in April.
Marta Beatriz Roque, 58, was released from prison unconditionally on 22 July 2004. The writer and economist was freed from the Carlos J. Finlay military hospital on health grounds after serving sixteen months of a twenty-year sentence. Roque had been arrested in March 2003 along with 74 other individuals opposed to President Fidel Castro’s rule. She was sentenced in April 2003 under Article 91 (which deals with “acts against the independence or territorial integrity of the state”), principally for her work in setting up a Web site that reported unfavourably on the Cuban economy. Roque was reported to be suffering from rheumatism and diabetes, as well as chest pains and high blood pressure.
Cyber-dissident Le Chi Quang was released on 14 June 2004, two years before he was due to complete his prison sentence. Quang suffers from serious kidney problems. This appears to have been the reason for his early release. A government source reported that he had been freed for “humanitarian” reasons. Quang was said not to have received the treatment that he needed for his ailment. Quang had been sentenced to four years in prison on 8 November 2002, for sending “dangerous” information abroad. He had written and posted an article on-line that detailed the circumstances in which the Vietnamese government signed border agreements with China. A policeman posing as an ordinary Internet user arrested Quang in a cybercafé.
Bui Minh Quoc, a Vietnamese poet, journalist and dissident, was released from formal administrative detention on 11 January 2004. However, he remains under heavy surveillance. He was detained on 8 January 2002. He was questioned by police for three days and then placed under formal house arrest in Dalat, southern Vietnam, on 12 January. He was charged with “possessing anti-government literature”, including his own writings.
Journalist Gu Linna was released in early 2003 – although the exact date of her release is not yet known – about one year earlier than the expiry of her four-year prison sentence. It is believed that she was freed because of her alleged cooperation with authorities against Falun Gong practitioners. She worked as a journalist, fiction writer and radio broadcaster with Shijiazhuang People’s Broadcast Station. She was also an outspoken and active member of Falun Gong. In April 1999, Gu Linna was fired for moderating a radio broadcast that she concluded by discussing her own faith. She then joined demonstrators in a protest against the government in Beijing. Gu Linna was arrested, transported to Shijiazhuang, fined and released. She was again taken into custody in late October 1999. On 14 June 2000, Gu Linna was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment for “undermining the implementation of the law using an evil cultist organization”.
The District of Gaza Emergency State Security Court had sentenced writer and publisher Salah al-Din Muhsin to three years’ imprisonment with hard labour on 27 January 2001. Muhsin was reportedly convicted under Article 98 (f) of the penal code of “denigration of revealed religions” and “threatening social peace” in his publications Musamarat al-Sama’ (Lecture of the Heaven), Mudhakkirat Muslim (Memoirs of a Muslim) and Irti’ashat Tanwiriya (Shivers of Enlightenment), all of which were reportedly recalled from circulation. Muhsin had been arrested on 10 March 2000. On 8 July 2000, he received a suspended sentence and was released. However, on 14 December 2000, he was re-arrested before boarding a flight to Turkey.
Zouhair Yahyaoui, a Tunisian Internet journalist, was released from prison on 18 November 2003. He was the founder of the Internet site TUNeZINE.com. He had been arrested at a Tunis cyber café on 4 June 2002. Yahyaoui was initially charged with “publishing information known to be untrue” under Article 309 of the Tunisian Penal Code, and was sentenced to two years and four months’ imprisonment on 20 June 2002. He received one year for “propagation of false news” and a further year and four months for “non-authorized usage of an Internet connection” and “theft from an employer”. Yahyaoui was re-tried on 3 July 2002. On 10 July, Yahyaoui’s sentence was reduced on appeal from twenty-eight months to two years.
Bernardo Arévalo Padrón, the Cuban journalist and former director of the Línea Sur Press news agency, was released from prison on 13 November 2003, upon completion of his six-year sentence. His ordeal began when he was arrested on 14 August 1997. Three days later he was released pending trial for “defamation” on account of articles considered insulting to various government officials and to President Fidel Castro himself. When his case came to court, he was found guilty instead of “enemy propaganda”, which carries longer penalties, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment. Under Cuban law, prisoners who have served half their sentence become eligible for parole. However, on 1 April 2001, his application was turned down on the grounds that he had not been sufficiently “politically re-educated”.
Qi Yanchen was released from prison on 1 May 2003, four months before the expiry of his four-year prison sentence for alleged “subversion” and “distributing anti-government news”. He had posted pro-democracy articles on the Internet. No reason for his early release was given. He reportedly spent some time at home in Cangzhou, Hebei Province, north China immediately after his release to rest and receive medical treatment for an inner infection, colitis and gallstones. He is now believed to have moved to Beijing, where he works with a private company.
Hishamuddin Rais, a Malaysian journalist, film maker and political activist was arrested on 10 April 2001, along with six other pro-reform activists arrested under the Internal Security Act, which provides for detention without charge or trial. They were detained as they were about to submit a “people’s memorandum” to the Human Rights Commission in Kuala Lumpur. On 1 June 2003, the two-year detention order for Hishamuddin Rais and three of his colleagues was allowed to expire. He was subsequently freed on 4 June 2003, after posting bail pertaining to several outstanding criminal charges.
Geoffrey Nyarota who is the editor-in-chief of The Daily News, faced multiple charges in Zimbabwe, including a charge of criminal defamation in connection with articles and editorials linking President Robert Mugabe to unauthorized payments allegedly made by Air Harbour Technologies. The latest charge on 15 April 2002, for “publishing falsehoods”, was due to articles denouncing improprieties by the Registrar-General during the presidential election. In January 2003, Nyarota was dismissed from the Daily News. This case was closed in April 2003 when Nyarota went into exile with his family. He is currently at Harvard University where he received a fellowship award.
Bui Ngoc Tan, an essayist and journalist, published a memoir, An Account of the Year 2000, in February 2000 about his “re-education” in the Vietnamese gulags from 1968 to 1973. The memoir was immediately seized and destroyed by the authorities. He has been the subject of many security interrogations. Others involved in the publication and distribution of the book were punished. This case was closed 9 April 2003, as Bui Ngoc Tan is no longer being harassed by the authorities; he is however, still on the watch list of Ha Noi’s security force.
Grigory Pasko, a naval journalist imprisoned in December 2001, was freed on 23 January 2003, following a parole hearing. He had been serving a four-year sentence on high treason charges in a forced labour camp, for his reports on illicit dumping of nuclear waste by Russian nuclear submarines.
Lubaba Said was released on 8 January 2003. Said, the former editor-in-chief of the newspaper Tarik, was handed down a one-year sentence on 3 April 2002, for “fabricating news that could have a negative psychological effect on members of the armed forces and disturb the minds of the people”. It is still unclear why she was released three months early.