In December, Index appealed to the public to send messages of support to six people who have been unjustly incarcerated for their activities in support of freedom of expression around the world.
Six activists were chosen, each of them currently in prison for their activism or simply doing their jobs as journalists.
The situation for each of the campaigners is dire and for some, seems to have worsened over the turn of the new year.
Golrokh Emrahimi Iraee, who was jailed for writing an unpublished story critical of the practice of stoning in Iran in 2016, has experienced yet another downturn in fortunes in her time in prison.
A spokesperson for her legal team told Index: “She was jailed in Ward 8 of Qarchak prison until 13 December. On that day, prison guards used stun guns and beat inmates in that ward and dragged Ms Iraee by her hair out of the prison. She was transferred to ward 2 of Evin Prison, which is run by the intelligence arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
“We are concerned that this may be an indication Iran intends to extend her July 2019 prison sentence of three years and seven months for “propaganda against the state” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.
Women’s rights campaigner Loujain al-Hathloul opposed the so-called male guardianship system in Saudi Arabia and is known for her activism in regard to the women to drive movement in the country. She was kidnapped in 2018 from the United Arab Emirates and reportedly tortured by Saudi authorities.
On 28 December last year, she was sentenced to nearly six years in prison. The campaign for her release put out the following statement.
“The sentence includes a suspension of 2 years and 10 months in addition to the time already served (since May 2018) which would see Loujain’s release in approximately two months,” they said.
“Loujain Al-Hathloul was charged with terrorism and labelled a traitor after her and other Saudi Activists were forcibly imprisoned after the driving ban was lifted by the Saudi Kingdom in May 2018.”
“The Saudi authorities instead of recognising Loujain and other activists for their efforts in pushing for reforms labelled them as traitors in a public campaign without any evidence in May 2018. During her time in prison Loujain has been subjected to multiple forms of torture to include waterboarding, flogging, electrocution and sexual assault”.
Aasif Sultan, who was arrested in Kashmir after writing about the death of Buhran Wani has been under illegal detention without charge for more than 800 days.
A spokesperson for the campaign for his release told Index: “Currently, because of the pandemic, no family member has been allowed to meet Aasif since March. The prison authorities allow the inmates to make telephone calls twice a month.”
“His family continues to be worried about his health and well-being amidst a raging pandemic. Srinagar Central Jail was once a Covid hotspot.”
The actions of the state in Turkish prisons remains alarming. Former newspaper editor Hatice Duman has been in jail since 2002 and is now serving a life sentence for being a member of the Marxist Leninist Communist Party. Duman and fellow prisoners have experienced violent raids and beatings from prison guards.
Duman’s brother gave the newspaper Alınteri an update on Hatice’s condition. In it, he said: “After the raid, I could only talk on the phone. Hatice said she was well and worried about her other battered friends.”
“According to the information I received from other families who visited, some detainees had serious health problems after the raid. We, families, are concerned that these raids will continue and violations of rights against our relatives will increase.”
Yury Dmitriev, the historian who sought to unearth mass graves from the killings of Stalin, continues to serve a 13-year sentence.
Dmitriev was found guilty of sexually abusing his adopted daughter, a charge his supporters claim was fabricated. Of his most recent status, little is known, except for a letter written to MBC Media in late September in which Dmitriev said he has “no intention of folding his hands”.
Algerian journalist Khaled Drareni appealed to his supporters in a strong message to “keep morale up”. He has been in prison since March 2020 for simply covering the Hirak protest movement.
Drareni, held in Koléa Prison, Tipaza and serving a two-year sentence told the Casbah Tribune (of which he is a founder) said: “From a young age, I have always had a foolproof mind and neither the prison of El-Harrach, in which I spent one night, nor that of Koléa, where I have been imprisoned for nine months, can damage my morale.”
His family says he is morally strong despite the verdict but says he has lost weight because of the meagre rations offered in prison which the family cannot supplement because of Covid. However, he has no health problems and is being treated well by all accounts.
There are rumours that Drareni’s name is on a list of people Algeria’s President Tebboune may pardon but nothing is certain, not least Tebboune’s health.
We are now calling for your final messages of support for these six activists and journalists who are #JailedNotForgotten. Please join us in this campaign today.