Ali Mohaqqiq Nasab, Haqooq-i-Zan (Women’s Rights)
Imprisoned: October 1, 2005
The attorney general ordered editor Nasab’s arrest on blasphemy charges after the religious adviser to President Hamid Karzai, Mohaiuddin Baluch, filed a complaint about his magazine. “I took the two magazines and spoke to the Supreme Court chief, who wrote to the attorney general to investigate,” Baluch told The Associated Press.
In the allegedly blasphemous articles, Nasab questioned the use of harsh punishments under traditional Islamic law, such as amputating the hands of thieves as punishment for stealing, and publicly stoning those accused of adultery, according to international news accounts.
Nasab was convicted in Kabul’s Primary Court on October 22 and sentenced to two years in prison. Judge Ansarullah Malawizada said that his ruling was based on recommendations from the conservative Ulama Council, a group of the country’s leading clerics. “The Ulama Council sent us a letter saying that he should be punished, so I sentenced him to two years’ jail,” Malawizada told the AP.
In a report shown on Afghan state television, Nasab rejected the conviction: “I do not accept the verdict by the court. It is a forced and illegal court.” Nasab said that he was not allowed to have a lawyer to help in his defense. Held in Kabul’s central jail, Nasab was under threat from other inmates because of the nature of the charges, local sources said. Journalists said that his conviction had a chilling effect on reporting, especially on religious issues.
Writings considered anti-Islamic are prohibited under a revised media law signed in March 2004, but the law is vaguely worded and local journalists are uncertain what constitutes a violation. The revised law also stipulates that journalists can only be detained with the approval of a 17-member commission of government officials and journalists. Yet police did not obtain approval from the commission before arresting Nasab.
On October 19, Minister of Information and Culture Sayed Makhdum Raheen did convene a hearing of the media commission, which found Nasab not guilty. “We found there was no blasphemy in the articles at all,” Raheen said in an interview with The New York Times. The commission’s recommendations, however, were nonbinding.
return to top
Djamel Eddine Fahassi, Alger Chaîne III
Imprisoned: May 6, 1995
Fahassi, a reporter for the state-run radio station Alger Chaîne III and a contributor to several Algerian newspapers, including the now-banned weekly of the Islamic Salvation Front, Al-Forqane, was abducted near his home in the al-Harrache suburb of the capital, Algiers, by four well-dressed men carrying walkie-talkies. According to eyewitnesses who later spoke with his wife, the men called out Fahassi’s name and then pushed him into a waiting car. He has not been seen since, and Algerian authorities have denied any knowledge of his arrest.
Prior to Fahassi’s “disappearance,” Algerian authorities had targeted him on at least two occasions because his writing criticized the government. In late 1991, he was arrested after an article in Al-Forqane criticized a raid conducted by security forces on an Algiers neighborhood. On January 1, 1992, the Blida Military Court convicted him of disseminating false information, attacking a state institution, and disseminating information that could harm national unity.
He received a one-year suspended sentence and was released after five months. On February 17, 1992, he was arrested a second time for allegedly attacking state institutions and spreading false information. He was transferred to the Ain Salah Detention Center in southern Algeria, where hundreds of Islamic suspects were detained in the months following the cancellation of the January 1992 elections.
In late January 2002, Algerian Ambassador to the United States Idriss Jazairy responded to a CPJ query, saying a government investigation had not found those responsible for Fahassi’s abduction. The ambassador added that there was no evidence of state involvement.
Aziz Bouabdallah, Al-Alam al-Siyassi
Imprisoned: April 12, 1997
Bouabdallah, a reporter for the daily Al-Alam al-Siyassi, was abducted by three armed men from his home in the capital, Algiers. According to Bouabdallah’s family, the men stormed into their home and, after identifying the journalist, grabbed him, put his hands behind his back, and pushed him out the door and into a waiting car. An article published in the daily El-Watan a few days after his abduction reported that Bouabdallah was in police custody and was expected to be released soon.
In July 1997, CPJ received credible information that Bouabdallah was being held in Algiers at the Châteauneuf detention facility, where he had reportedly been tortured. But Bouabdallah’s whereabouts are currently unknown, and authorities have denied any knowledge of his abduction.
In late January 2002, Algerian Ambassador to the United States Idriss Jazairy responded to a CPJ query, saying a government investigation had not found those responsible for Bouabdallah’s abduction. The ambassador added that there was no evidence of state involvement.
Mohamed Benchicou, Le Matin
Imprisoned: June 14, 2004
Benchicou, publisher of the French-language daily Le Matin, was sentenced to two years in prison after being convicted of violating the country’s currency laws in 2003. The sentence was widely viewed as retaliation for Le Matin‘s critical editorial line against the government.
The case was launched in August 2003, after Le Matin alleged that Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni had tortured detainees while he was a military security commander in the 1970s. Benchicou, a frequent government critic, further angered officials in February 2004, when he published a book titled Bouteflika, An Algerian Fraud.
Dozens of other cases are pending against Benchicou, including lawsuits alleging that he defamed Bouteflika in articles published in Le Matin.
return to top
U Win Tin, freelance
Imprisoned: July 4, 1989
U Win Tin, former editor-in-chief of the daily Hanthawati and vice chairman of Burma’s Writers’ Association, was arrested and sentenced to three years of hard labor on the spurious charge of arranging a “forced abortion” for a member of the opposition National League for Democracy (NLD). One of Burma’s most well-known and influential journalists, U Win Tin helped establish independent publications during the 1988 student democracy movement. He was also a senior leader of the NLD and a close adviser to opposition leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi.
In 1992, he was sentenced to an additional 10 years for “writing and publishing pamphlets to incite treason against the state” and “giving seditious talks,” according to a May 2000 report by the Defense Ministry’s Office of Strategic Studies. On March 28, 1996, prison authorities extended U Win Tin’s sentence by another seven years after they convicted him, along with at least 22 others, of producing clandestine publications–including a report describing the horrific conditions at Rangoon’s Insein Prison, to the U.N. special rapporteur for human rights in Burma.
U Win Tin was charged under Section 5(e) of the Emergency Provisions Act for having “secretly published antigovernment propaganda to create riots in jail,” according to the Defense Ministry report. His cumulative sentence was 20 years of hard labor and imprisonment.
Now 75, the veteran journalist is said to be in extremely poor health after years of maltreatment in Burma’s prisons–including a period when he was kept in solitary confinement in one of Insein Prison’s notorious “dog cells,” formerly used as kennels for the facility’s guard dogs. He suffers from a degenerative spine disease, as well as a prostate gland disorder. The journalist has had at least two heart attacks and spent time in the hospital twice in 2002: once following a hernia operation, and again in connection with a heart ailment.
According to a report in Le Monde, a Burmese army officer asked U Win Tin to sign a document in early 2003 that would have freed him from prison if he agreed to stop his political work, but the journalist refused.
Burma’s ruling military junta has announced several amnesties for political prisoners over the last few years, but U Win Tin has not been among those released. According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma, he remained in prison in 2005.
Maung Maung Lay Ngwe, Pe-Tin-Than
Imprisoned: September 1990
Maung Maung Lay Ngwe was arrested and charged with writing and distributing publications that “make people lose respect for the government.” The publications were titled, collectively, Pe-Tin-Than (Echoes). CPJ has not been able to confirm his legal status or find records of his sentencing.
Aung Htun, freelance
Imprisoned: February 1998
Aung Htun, a writer and activist with the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, was arrested in February 1998 for writing a seven-volume book documenting the history of the Burmese student movement. He was sentenced to a total of 17 years in prison, according to a joint report published in December 2001 by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma and the Burma Lawyers Council. Aung Htun was sentenced to three years for violating the 1962 Printer and Publishers Registration Act; seven years under the 1950 Emergency Provisions Act; and another seven years under the 1908 Unlawful Associations Act. He is jailed at Tharawaddy Prison.
In August 2002, Amnesty International issued an urgent appeal on Aung Htun’s behalf saying that the journalist required immediate medical attention. Amnesty reported that Aung Htun “has growths on his feet which require investigation, is unable to walk, and suffers from asthma.”
Tha Ban, a former editor at Kyemon newspaper who was arrested with Aung Htun, was released from Insein Prison in the capital, Rangoon, on July 12, 2004, after serving more than six years of his seven-year prison sentence. According to the BBC, Tha Ban was released from prison after signing a pledge not to participate in politics.
Thaung Tun (also known as Nyein Thit), freelance
Imprisoned: October 1999
Thaung Tun, an editor, reporter, and poet better known by his pen name, Nyein Thit, and Aung Pwint, a videographer, editor, and poet, were arrested separately in early October 1999. CPJ sources said they were arrested for making independent video documentaries that portrayed life in Burma, including footage of forced labor and hardship in rural areas. Aung Pwint worked at a private media company that produced videos for tourism and educational purposes, but he also worked with Thaung Tun on documentary-style projects. Their videotapes circulated through underground networks.
The two men were tried together, and each was sentenced to eight years in prison, according to CPJ sources. Thaung Tun was jailed at Moulmein Prison, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma. Aung Pwint was initially jailed at Insein Prison but was later transferred to Tharawaddy Prison, according to CPJ sources.
CPJ honored the two journalists in 2004 with International Press Freedom Awards for their courage and commitment to press freedom. Aung Pwint was released on July 6, 2005, but Thaung Tun remained behind bars.
Ne Min (also known as Win Shwe), freelance
Imprisoned: May 7, 2004
Ne Min, a lawyer and former stringer for the BBC, was sentenced to a 15-year prison term by a special court in the infamous Insein Prison in the capital, Rangoon, along with four other former political prisoners who also received lengthy prison sentences, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners in Burma (AAPPB), a prisoner assistance group based in Thailand.
Military intelligence officers arrested the five men in February for allegedly passing information to unlawful organizations outside Burma, according to the AAPPB. The four others were Maung Maung Latt, Paw Lwin, Ye Thiha, and Yan Naing.
In 1989, Ne Min, who is also known as Win Shwe, was charged with “spreading false news and rumors to the BBC to fan further disturbances in the country,” and the “possession of documents including antigovernment literature, which he planned to send to the BBC,” according to the official Rangoon radio. He was sentenced to 14 years of hard labor by a military tribunal near Insein Prison and served nine years.
Exiled Burmese journalists say it is likely that Ne Min, who is thought to be in his mid-50s, continued to provide news and information to exiled and international news sources after his release from prison in 1998. The media in Burma are strictly controlled and censored, and most Burmese get their news from international radio.
The convictions came just 10 days before the opening of the National Convention, called by Burma’s ruling junta to frame a new constitution as part of a so-called seven-step plan to democracy. The National League for Democracy, the main opposition political party, boycotted the convention, and foreign reporters were not issued visas to cover the event. Local journalists said the harsh sentences were meant as a warning and were part of an overall increase in intimidation and pressure on the media in Burma.
return to top
Mam Sonando, Sombok Khmum
Imprisoned: October 11, 2005
Police detained Mam Sonando, owner and manager of Sombok Khmum (Beehive Radio), at his home outside the capital, Phnom Penh, after Prime Minister Hun Sen filed criminal defamation charges. On October 17, Hun Sen filed a second charge against Sonando, accusing him of broadcasting illegal information.
The prime minister cited a September interview with Sean Peng Se, an expert on Cambodia’s borders, who questioned Cambodia’s border agreement with Vietnam. The prime minister later threatened to prosecute others who criticize his government. “This is no joke,” Deutsche Presse Agentur quoted him as saying.
A government spokesman told the U.S. government-funded Voice of America that Sonando was jailed for “professional mistakes” because the report on the border agreement gave only one side of the story. If convicted, Sonando faces up to one year in jail. Cambodia’s court of appeal denied bail on November 3, and Sonando was being held in Phnom Penh’s crowded Prey Sar Prison. He can be held for up to six months without bail under Cambodian law.
The popular FM station is the only source of independent news broadcasting in Cambodia. It leases airtime to Voice of America and the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Asia. The leases are another source of conflict with the government, which has periodically banned the rebroadcast of foreign-sourced news.
Sonando, a former opposition politician, was arrested in 2003 and spent two weeks in jail on charges of incitement, discrimination, and disseminating false news in connection with anti-Thai riots that swept Phnom Penh early that year. The riots followed comments attributed to popular Thai actress Suwanan Konying that Cambodia’s famed Angkor Wat Temple should belong to Thailand. She denied making the comments. CPJ sources who witnessed the riots did not believe that the radio station was a direct cause of the violence.
return to top
Chen Renjie, Ziyou Bao
Lin Youping, Ziyou Bao
Imprisoned: July 1983
In September 1982, Chen, Lin, and Chen Biling wrote and published a pamphlet titled Ziyou Bao (Freedom Report), distributing about 300 copies in Fuzhou, Fujian province. They were arrested in July 1983 and accused of making contact with Taiwanese spy groups and publishing a counterrevolutionary pamphlet. According to official government records of the case, the men used “propaganda and incitement to encourage the overthrow of the people’s democratic dictatorship and the socialist system.” In August 1983, Chen Renjie was sentenced to life in prison, and Lin Youping was sentenced to death with reprieve. Chen Biling was sentenced to death and later executed.
Fan Yingshang, Remen Huati
Sentenced: February 7, 1996
In 1994, Fan and Yang Jianguo printed more than 60,000 copies of the magazine Remen Huati (Popular Topics). The men had allegedly purchased fake printing authorizations from an editor of the Journal of European Research at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, according to official Chinese news sources.
CPJ was unable to determine the date of Fan’s arrest, but on February 7, 1996, the Chang’an District Court in Shijiazhuang City sentenced him to 15 years in prison for “engaging in speculation and profiteering.” Authorities termed Remen Huati a “reactionary” publication. Yang escaped arrest and was not sentenced.
Hua Di, freelance
Imprisoned: January 5, 1998
Hua, a permanent resident of the United States, was arrested while visiting China and charged with revealing state secrets. The charge is believed to stem from articles that Hua, a scientist at Stanford University, had written about China’s missile defense system.
On November 25, 1999, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court held a closed trial and sentenced Hua to 15 years in prison, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. In March 2000, the Beijing High People’s Court overturned Hua’s conviction and ordered that the case be retried. This judicial reversal was extraordinary, particularly for a high-profile political case. Nevertheless, in April 2000, the Beijing State Security Bureau rejected a request for Hua to be released on medical parole; he suffers from a rare form of male breast cancer.
On November 23, 2000, after a retrial, the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court issued a modified verdict, sentencing Hua to 10 years in prison. News of Hua’s sentencing broke in February 2001, when a relative gave the information to foreign correspondents based in Beijing. In late 2001, Hua was moved to Tilanqiao Prison in Shanghai, according to CPJ sources.
Gao Qinrong, Xinhua News Agency
Imprisoned: December 4, 1998
Gao, a reporter for China’s state news agency, Xinhua, was jailed for reporting on a corrupt irrigation scheme in drought-plagued Yuncheng, Shanxi province. Xinhua never carried Gao’s article, which was finally published on May 27, 1998, in an internal reference edition of the official People’s Daily that is distributed only among a select group of party leaders. But by fall 1998, the irrigation scandal had become national news, with reports appearing in the Guangzhou-based Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) and on China Central Television. Gao’s wife, Duan Maoying, said that local officials blamed Gao for the flurry of media interest and arranged for his prosecution on false charges.
Gao was arrested on December 4, 1998, and eventually charged with crimes including bribery, embezzlement, and pimping, according to Duan. On April 28, 1999, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison after a closed, one-day trial. He was being held in a prison in Qixian, Shanxi province, according to CPJ sources.
In September 2001, Gao wrote to Mary Robinson, then the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, and asked her to intercede with the Chinese government on his behalf. Gao has received support from several members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference of the National People’s Congress, who issued a motion at its annual parliamentary meeting in March 2001 urging the Central Discipline Committee and Supreme People’s Court to reopen his case. But by late 2005, there had been no change in his legal status.
Yue Tianxiang, Zhongguo Gongren Guancha
Imprisoned: January 1999
The Tianshui People’s Intermediate Court in Gansu province sentenced Yue to 10 years in prison on July 5, 1999. The journalist was charged with “subverting state power,” according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Yue was arrested along with two colleagues–Wang Fengshan and Guo Xinmin–both of whom were sentenced to two years in prison and have since been released. According to the Hong Kong-based daily South China Morning Post, Yue, Guo, and Wang were arrested in January 1999 for publishing Zhongguo Gongren Guancha (China Workers Monitor), a journal that campaigned for workers’ rights.
With help from Wang, Yue and Guo started the journal after they were unable to get compensation from the Tianshui City Transport Agency following their dismissal from the company in 1995. All three men reportedly belonged to the outlawed China Democracy Party, a dissident group, and were forming an organization to protect the rights of laid-off workers. The first issue of Zhongguo Gongren Guancha exposed extensive corruption among officials at the Tianshui City Transport Agency. Only two issues were ever published.
Wu Yilong, Zaiye Dang
Imprisoned: April 26, 1999
Mao Qingxiang, Zaiye Dang
Imprisoned: June 1999
Zhu Yufu, Zaiye Dang
Imprisoned: September 1999
Wu, an organizer for the banned China Democracy Party (CDP), was detained by police in Guangzhou on April 26, 1999. In June, near the 10th anniversary of the brutal crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tiananmen Square, authorities detained CDP activist Mao. Zhu and Xu Guang, also leading CDP activists, were detained in September. The four were later charged with subversion for, among other things, establishing a magazine called Zaiye Dang (Opposition Party) and circulating pro-democracy writings online.
On October 25, 1999, the Hangzhou Intermediate People’s Court in Zhejiang province conducted what The New York Times described as a “sham trial.” On November 9, 1999, all the journalists were convicted of subversion. Wu was sentenced to 11 years in prison. Mao was sentenced to eight years, and Zhu to seven years. Their political rights were suspended for three years each upon release. Xu was sentenced to five years in prison, with a two-year suspension of political rights.
In December 2002, Mao was transferred to a convalescence hospital after his health had sharply declined as a result of being confined to his cell. Zhu, who has also been confined to his cell and forbidden from reading newspapers, was placed under tightened restrictions in 2002 after refusing to express regret for his actions, according to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China. Xu was released from Zhejiang’s Qiaosi Prison in September 2004.
Xu Zerong, freelance
Imprisoned: June 24, 2000
Xu was arrested in the city of Guangzhou and held incommunicado for 19 months before being tried by the Shenzhen Intermediate Court in January 2002. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of “leaking state secrets,” and to an additional three years on charges of committing “economic crimes.”
Xu, an associate research professor at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies at Zhongshan University in Guangzhou, has written several freelance articles about China’s foreign policy and co-founded a Hong Kong-based academic journal Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Jikan (China Social Sciences Quarterly). Xu is a permanent resident of Hong Kong.
Chinese officials have said that the “state secrets” charges against Xu stem from his use of historical materials for his academic research. In 1992, Xu photocopied four books published in the 1950s about China’s role in the Korean War, which he then sent to a colleague in South Korea, according to a letter from the Chinese government to St. Antony’s College, Oxford University. (Xu earned his Ph.D. at St. Antony’s College, and since his arrest, college personnel have actively researched and protested his case.) The Security Committee of the People’s Liberation Army in Guangzhou later determined that these documents should be labeled “top secret.”
The “economic crimes” charges are related to the “illegal publication” of more than 60,000 copies of 25 books and periodicals since 1993, including several books about Chinese politics and Beijing’s relations with Taiwan, according to official government documents.
Some observers believe that the charges against Xu are more likely related to an article he wrote for the Hong Kong-based Yazhou Zhoukan (Asia Weekly) newsmagazine revealing clandestine Chinese Communist Party support for Malaysian communist insurgency groups in the 1950s and 1960s. Xu was arrested only days before the article appeared in the June 26, 2000, issue. In the article, Xu accused the Chinese Communist Party of hypocrisy for condemning the United States and other countries for interfering in China’s internal affairs by criticizing its human rights record. “China’s support of world revolution is based on the concept of ‘class above sovereignty’… which is equivalent to the idea of ‘human rights above sovereignty,’ which the U.S. promotes today,” Xu wrote.
An appeal filed by Xu’s family was rejected.
Jiang Weiping, freelance
Imprisoned: December 4, 2000
Jiang, a freelance journalist, was arrested after he published a number of articles in the Hong Kong-based magazine Qianshao (Frontline), a Chinese-language monthly focusing on mainland affairs. The stories exposed corruption scandals in northeastern China.
Jiang wrote the Qianshao articles, which were published between June and September 1999, under various pen names. His coverage exposed several major corruption scandals involving high-level officials. Notably, Jiang reported that Shenyang Vice Mayor Ma Xiangdong had lost nearly 30 million yuan (US$3.6 million) in public funds gambling in Macau casinos. Jiang also revealed that Chinese Trade Minister Bo Xilai had covered up corruption among his friends and family during his years as Dalian mayor.
Soon after these cases were publicized in Qianshao and other Hong Kong media, central authorities detained Ma. He was accused of taking bribes, embezzling public funds, and gambling overseas and was executed for these crimes in December 2001. After Ma’s arrest, his case was widely reported in the domestic press and used as an example in the government’s ongoing fight against corruption. However, in May 2001, Jiang was indicted for “revealing state secrets.”
The Dalian Intermediate Court held a secret trial in September 2001. On January 25, 2002, the court formally sentenced Jiang to eight years in prison on charges including “inciting to subvert state power” and “illegally providing state secrets overseas.” This judgment amended an earlier decision to sentence Jiang to nine years. During the January sentencing, Jiang proclaimed his innocence and told the court that the verdict “trampled on the law,” according to CPJ sources. Jiang immediately appealed his sentence to the Liaoning Province Higher People’s Court. On December 26, 2002, the court heard the appeal and, while upholding Jiang’s guilty verdict, reduced his sentence to six years, according to the California-based Dui Hua Foundation, which has been in direct contact with the Chinese government about the case. A court official told The Associated Press that, “We just thought that his criminal records were not as serious as previously concluded.”
According to CPJ sources, Jiang has a serious stomach disorder and has been denied medical treatment. Held in a crowded cell in unsanitary conditions early in his prison term, he also contracted a skin disease. His wife, Li Yanling, was repeatedly interrogated and threatened following her husband’s arrest. In March 2002, the local public security bureau brought her in for questioning and detained her for several weeks.
An experienced journalist, Jiang had worked until May 2000 as the northeastern China bureau chief for the Hong Kong-based newspaper Wen Hui Bao. He contributed freelance articles to Qianshao. In the 1980s, he worked as a Dalian-based correspondent for Xinhua, China’s official news agency.
In November 2001, CPJ honored Jiang with its annual International Press Freedom Award. In February 2002, CPJ sent appeals to Chinese President Jiang Zemin from almost 600 supporters–including CBS news anchor Dan Rather, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, and former U.S. Ambassador to China Winston Lord–demanding Jiang’s unconditional release. That month, U.S. President George W. Bush highlighted Jiang’s case in meetings with Jiang Zemin during a state visit to China.
In May 2005, CPJ learned about a deterioration in the health care and prison conditions provided to Jiang. Prison authorities had barred Jiang from making phone calls for a period of months and denied him permission to read books, according to CPJ sources. The reasons for the severe measures were not disclosed. Relatives who visited Jiang at the end of April reported a visible deterioration in his health.
Yang Zili, Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan
Xu Wei, Xiaofei Ribao
Jin Haike, freelance
Zhang Honghai, freelance
Imprisoned: March 13, 2001
Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang were detained on March 13 and charged with subversion on April 20. On May 29, 2003, the Beijing Intermediate Court sentenced Xu and Jin to 10 years in prison each on subversion charges, while Yang and Zhang were sentenced to eight years each on similar charges.
The four were active participants in the Xin Qingnian Xuehui (New Youth Study Group), an informal gathering of individuals who explored topics related to political and social reform and used the Internet to circulate relevant articles.
Yang, the group’s most prominent member, published a Web site, Yangzi de Sixiang Jiayuan (Yangzi’s Garden of Ideas), which featured poems, essays, and reports by various authors on subjects such as the shortcomings of rural elections. Authorities closed the site after Yang’s arrest.
When Xu, a reporter with Xiaofei Ribao (Consumer Daily), was detained on March 13, 2001, authorities confiscated his computer, other professional equipment, and books, according to an account published online by his girlfriend, Wang Ying. Wang reported that public security officials also ordered Xiaofei Ribao to fire Xu. The newspaper has refused to discuss his case with reporters, according to The Associated Press.
The Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court tried all four on September 28, 2001. Prosecutors focused predominately on the group’s writings, including two essays circulated on the Internet called “Be a New Citizen, Reform China” and “What’s to Be Done?” According to the indictment papers, these articles demonstrated the group’s intention “to overthrow the Chinese Communist Party’s leadership and the socialist system and subvert the regime of the people’s democratic dictatorship.” In November 2003, the Beijing Supreme People’s Court rejected an appeal filed by a lawyer for Yang, Xu, Jin, and Zhang. In the appeal, the defense noted that three key witnesses who testified for the prosecution against the four men have since retracted their original testimony.
Tao Haidong, freelance
Imprisoned: July 9, 2002
Tao, an Internet essayist and pro-democracy activist, was arrested in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region (XUAR), and charged with “incitement to subvert state power.” According to the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site, which had published Tao’s recent writing, his articles focused on political and legal reform. In one essay, titled “Strategies for China’s Social Reforms,” Tao wrote that “the Chinese Communist Party and democracy activists throughout society should unite to push forward China’s freedom and democratic development or else stand condemned through the ages.”
Previously, in 1999, Tao was sentenced to three years of “re-education through labor” in Xi’an, Shaanxi province, according to the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights in China, because of his essays and work on a book titled Xin Renlei Shexiang (Imaginings of a New Human Race). After his early release in 2001, Tao began writing essays and articles and publishing them on various domestic and overseas Web sites.
In early January 2003, the Urumqi Intermediate Court sentenced Tao to seven years in prison. His appeal to the XUAR Higher Court later in 2003 was rejected.
Zhang Wei, Shishi Zixun and Redian Jiyao
Imprisoned: July 19, 2002
Zhang was arrested and charged with illegal publishing after producing and selling two underground newspapers in Chongqing, in central China. According to an account published on the Web site of the Chongqing Press and Publishing Administration, a provincial government body that governs all local publications, beginning in April 2001, Zhang edited two newspapers, Shishi Zixun (Current Events) and Redian Jiyao (Summary of the Main Points), which included articles and graphics he had downloaded from the Internet.
Two of Zhang’s business associates, Zuo Shangwen and Ou Yan, were also arrested on July 19, 2002, and indicted for their involvement with the publications. Zuo printed the publications in neighboring Sichuan province, while Ou managed the publications’ finances. At the time of their arrests, police confiscated 9,700 copies of Shishi Zixun.
The official account of their arrests stated that the two publications had “flooded” Chongqing’s publishing market. The government declared that “the political rumors, shocking ‘military reports,’ and other articles in these illegal publications misled the public, poisoned the youth, negatively influenced society, and sparked public indignation.” Zhang, Zuo, and Ou printed more than 1.5 million copies of the publications and sold them in Chongqing, Chengdu, and other cities.
On December 25, 2002, the Yuzhong District Court in Chongqing sentenced Zhang to six years in prison and fined him 100,000 yuan (US$12,000), the amount that police said he had earned in profits from the publications. Zuo was sentenced to five years and fined 50,000 yuan (US$6,000), while Ou was sentenced to two years in prison.
Abdulghani Memetemin, East Turkistan Information Center
Imprisoned: July 26, 2002
Memetemin, a writer, teacher, and translator who had actively advocated for the Uighur ethnic group in the northwestern Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, was detained in Kashgar, a city in Xinjiang, on charges of “leaking state secrets.”
In June 2003, Kashgar Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to nine years in prison, plus a three-year suspension of political rights. Radio Free Asia provided CPJ with court documents listing 18 specific counts against Memetemin, including translating state news articles into Chinese from Uighur; forwarding official speeches to the Germany-based East Turkistan Information Center (ETIC), a news outlet that advocates for an independent state for the Uighur ethnic group; and conducting original reporting for the center. The court also accused him of recruiting additional reporters for ETIC, which is banned in China.
Memetemin did not have legal representation at his trial and has not been in contact with his wife or children since his arrest. His harsh punishment reflected the intense suppression of information in Xinjiang.
Cai Lujun, freelance
Imprisoned: February 21, 2003
Cai was arrested at his home in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. In October 2003, the Shijiazhuang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him to three years in prison on subversion charges.
Cai, 35, had used pen names to write numerous essays distributed online calling for political reforms. His articles included “Political Democracy Is the Means; A Powerful Country and Prosperous Citizenry Is the Goal”; “An Outline for Building and Governing the Country”; and “The Course of Chinese Democracy.”
Following the November 2002 arrest of Internet essayist Liu Di, Cai Lujun began to publish online essays under his own name calling for Liu’s release and expressing his political views. Liu was released on November 28, 2003.
Luo Changfu, freelance
Imprisoned: March 13, 2003
Public security officials arrested Luo at his home in Chongqing municipality and charged him with “subversion.” On November 6, 2003, the Chongqing No. 1 Intermediate Court sentenced him to three years in prison.
Luo, 40, is an unemployed factory worker. Before his arrest, he had actively campaigned for the release of Internet essayist Liu Di, who was arrested in November 2002 and released on bail a year later. Luo had written a series of articles calling for Liu’s release and protesting the Chinese government’s censorship of online speech. His essays also called for political reforms in China.
In the 1980s, Luo was sent to a re-education-through-labor camp for three years for his dissident activities, according to the New York-based organization Human Rights in China.
Luo Yongzhong, freelance
Imprisoned: June 14, 2003
Luo, who has written numerous articles that have been distributed online, was detained in Changchun, Jilin province. On July 7, he was formally arrested. On October 14, the Changchun Intermediate Court sentenced him to three years in prison and two years without political rights upon his release, which is scheduled for June 13, 2006.
In sentencing papers, which have been widely distributed online, the court stated that between May and June 2003, Luo wrote several essays that “attacked the socialist system, incited to subvert state power, and created a negative influence on society.” Several specific articles were cited as evidence, including “At Last We See the Danger of the Three Represents!”–a reference to a political theory formulated by former President Jiang Zemin–and “Tell Today’s Youth the Truth about June 4,” a reference to the military crackdown on peaceful pro-democracy protesters in June 1989. According to the court papers, the articles were published on online forums including Shuijing Luntan (Crystal) Web site.
Luo has also written a number of articles advocating the rights of people with disabilities.
Huang Jinqiu, Boxun News
Imprisoned: September 13, 2003
Huang, a columnist for the U.S.-based dissident news Web site Boxun News, was arrested in Jiangsu province. Huang’s family was not officially notified of his arrest until January 2004. The Changzhou Intermediate People’s Court sentenced him on September 27, 2004, to 12 years in prison on charges of “subversion of state power,” plus four years’ deprivation of political rights.
Huang worked as a writer and editor in his native Shandong province, as well as in Guangdong province, before leaving China in 2000 to study journalism at the Central Academy of Art in Malaysia. While he was overseas, Huang began writing political commentary for Boxun News under the pen name “Qing Shuijun.” He also wrote articles on arts and entertainment under the name “Huang Jin.” Huang’s writings reportedly caught the attention of the government in 2001. Huang told a friend that authorities had contacted his family to warn them about his writing, according to Boxun News.
In January 2003, Huang wrote in his online column that he intended to form a new opposition party, the China Patriot Democracy Party. When he returned to China in August 2003, he eluded public security agents just long enough to visit his family in Shandong province. In the last article he posted on Boxun News, titled “Me and My Public Security Friends,” Huang described being followed and harassed by security agents.
Huang’s appeal was rejected in December 2004. Huang’s lawyer told CPJ in early 2005 that the journalist had been mistreated in prison and was in poor health.
Kong Youping, freelance
Imprisoned: December 13, 2003
Kong, an essayist and poet, was arrested in Anshan, Liaoning province. He had written articles online that supported democratic reforms and called for a reversal of the government’s “counterrevolutionary” ruling on the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, according to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democracy.
Kong’s essays included an appeal to democracy activists in China that stated, “In order to work well for democracy, we need a well-organized, strong, powerful, and effective organization. Otherwise, a mainland democracy movement will accomplish nothing.” Several of his articles and poems were posted on the Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum) Web site.
In 1998, Kong served time in prison after he became a member of the Liaoning province branch of the China Democracy Party, an opposition party. On September 16, 2004, the Shenyang Intermediate People’s Court sentenced Kong to 15 years in prison.
Yu Huafeng, Nanfang Dushi Bao
Li Minying, Nanfang Dushi Bao
Imprisoned: January 2004
The Dongshan District Court in Guangzhou, Guangdong province, sentenced Yu, Nanfang Dushi Bao deputy editor-in-chief and general manager, to 12 years in prison on corruption charges. Li, former editor of Nanfang Dushi Bao, was sentenced to 11 years for bribery in a related case. Li also served on the Communist Party Committee of the Nanfang Daily Group, the newspaper’s parent company. In an appellate trial held on June 7, 2004, Li’s sentence was reduced to six years in prison, while Yu’s sentence was reduced to eight years.
Nanfang Dushi Bao (Southern Metropolis News) became popular for its aggressive investigative reporting on social issues and wrongdoing by local officials. The paper broke news that a young graphic designer, Sun Zhigang, was beaten to death in March 2003 while being held in police custody in Guangzhou. Public outcry over Sun’s death led to the arrest of several local government and police officials.
On December 26, 2003, Nanfang Dushi Bao reported a suspected SARS case in Guangzhou, the first new case in China since the epidemic died out in July 2003. The government had not yet publicly released information about the case when the newspaper’s report was published. Editors and reporters who worked on the SARS story were reprimanded. Yu was detained on January 14, 2004, according to a report in the official English-language China Daily.
According to a March 19 report in the official Xinhua News Agency, Yu was convicted of embezzling 580,000 yuan (US$70,000) and distributing the money to members of the paper’s editorial committee. The court also accused Yu of paying Li a total of 800,000 yuan (US$97,000) in bribes while Li was editor of Nanfang Dushi Bao. Li was accused of accepting bribes totaling 970,000 (US$117,000).
Both men maintain that the money was acquired legally and was distributed in routine bonus payments to the staff. Chinese journalists familiar with the case have told CPJ that evidence presented in court did not support the corruption charges.
In recent years, government authorities have made moves to consolidate control over the Nanfang Daily Group, which owns a number of China’s most independent and popular newspapers, including Nanfang Zhoumo (Southern Weekend) and Ershiyi Shiji Jingji Baodao (21st Century Economic Herald). In March 2003, Ershiyi Shiji Huanqiu Baodao (21st Century World Herald), also owned by the Nanfang Daily Group, was closed after it ran a series of sensitive stories, including an interview with a former secretary of Mao Zedong who called for political reforms.
In June 2005, more than 2,000 journalists in China signed an open letter to the Guangdong High People’s Court appealing for the release of Yu and Li.
Zhao Yan, The New York Times
Imprisoned: September 17, 2004
Zhao, a news assistant at The New York Times Beijing bureau and a former reporter for Beijing-based China Reform magazine, was detained in Shanghai.
On September 21, 2004, Zhao’s family received a notice from the Beijing State Security Bureau accusing Zhao of “providing state secrets to foreigners,” according to international news reports. Prosecutors issued a formal arrest warrant for Zhao on October 20, 2004, but they did not specify the alleged actions leading to his arrest. That month, then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell expressed concern about Zhao’s case to Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing. Li responded that it was an internal matter.
The detention followed an article in The New York Times revealing Jiang Zemin’s plan to retire from the position of chairman of the Central Military Commission. The September 7 article preceded the official announcement of the final transfer of leadership to Hu Jintao on September 19 and cited unnamed sources with ties to leadership.
Zhao’s associates have speculated that the journalist is under investigation as the source of the leak. The New York Times said that Zhao–who worked as a researcher for The Times and not as a reporter–did not provide any state secrets to the newspaper and was not involved in the September 7 story. A confidential state security report obtained by The Times said that a high-level inquiry targeting Zhao was initiated after the September 7 article appeared.
Before joining The Times, Zhao was a well-known investigative journalist who reported on farmers’ rights issues for the Beijing-based Zhongguo Gaige (China Reform) magazine. He had been the frequent target of local police harassment and interrogation for his stories, which included reporting on a local official’s alleged misappropriation of compensation for thousands of people displaced by the Taolinkou reservoir in Hebei province. Zhao has also worked as an activist for farmers’ rights.
In April 2005, police informed Zhao’s lawyer Mo Shaoping that a new accusation of fraud had been leveled against the journalist, allowing authorities to set back the clock on the legal investigation period for Zhao’s case and to continue detaining him without trial. Authorities deprived Zhao of any contact with a lawyer for roughly nine months after his detention.
On May 20, police turned over Zhao’s case to the Beijing No. 2 People’s Procuratorate for further investigation and prosecution, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told reporters. On July 9, prosecutors returned the case to state security agents. It is unclear whether Zhao will be formally indicted on the state secrets charge or on fraud, which carries a less severe sentence.
Shi Tao, freelance
Imprisoned: November 24, 2004
Officials from the Changsha security bureau detained Shi near his home in Taiyuan, Shanxi province, on November 24, 2004, several months after he e-mailed notes detailing the propaganda department’s instructions to the media about coverage of the anniversary of the crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Authorities confiscated his computer and other documents and warned his family to stay quiet about the matter.
On December 14, authorities issued a formal arrest order, charging Shi with “leaking state secrets.” On April 27, 2005, the Changsha Intermediate People’s Court found Shi guilty and sentenced him to a 10-year prison term.
The state-run Xinhua News Agency reported that Shi had been found guilty of posting online his notes about a government document that was read to his publication’s editorial staff in April 2004. Xinhua said that his report had been picked up by several overseas Web sites, and that the National Administration for the Protection of State Secrets later certified the contents as state secrets.
Shi is the former editorial director of Dangdai Shang Bao, a magazine based in Changsha, Hunan province. On April 20, 2004, he e-mailed to a U.S.-based online editor, Cary Hung, his notes from the propaganda ministry’s instructions to the magazine regarding the return of overseas dissidents to China to mark the 15th anniversary last year of the military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators at Tiananmen Square.
Hung is editor of the New York-based Minzhu Luntan (Democracy Forum), a dissident news Web site that is banned in China, and Minzhu Tongxun (Democracy Communication), an e-mail-based information network. Shi’s notes were distributed through Minzhu Tongxun and later posted on other Web sites.
Shortly before Shi’s trial, Guo Guoting, who was originally set to act as Shi’s defense lawyer, received notice that his license to practice law had been suspended. Guo told CPJ at the time that he believed the punitive action was related to the lawyer’s defense of controversial freedom of expression cases like Shi’s.
Guo’s replacement, defense lawyer Tong Wenzhong, was never granted access to the contents of the “state secrets” that Shi was accused of leaking, said Shi Hua, the journalist’s brother. Tong was told only the title of the material, and its government designation as “secret.” Nevertheless, Tong entered a guilty plea on Shi’s behalf on March 11.
Shi changed his plea to not guilty in a written appeal submitted to the Hunan Province High People’s Court. On June 2, the court rejected Shi’s appeal without giving the journalist a hearing.
Shi’s mother, Gao Qinsheng, has alleged “serious procedural defects” in the proceeding, the human rights group Human Rights in China reported. Gao filed a request for review with the Hunan Province High People’s Court on August 21, sources confirmed to CPJ. Shi’s current lawyer, Mo Shaoping, filed a brief in support of the request.
Mo’s brief argues that the court did not hear arguments in Shi’s defense, nor did it respond, as required by law, to the evidence that was presented. The appeal hearing was not open to the public, which is in violation of the criminal procedure law, the brief said.
Shi’s verdict, which was leaked to the public, revealed that the U.S.-based Internet company Yahoo had given Chinese authorities information about Shi’s e-mail account that was used to convict him.
In November 2005, CPJ honored Shi with its annual International Press Freedom Award.
Zheng Yichun, freelance
Imprisoned: December 3, 2004
Zheng, a former professor, was a regular contributor to overseas online news sites including Dajiyuan (Epoch Times). He wrote critically about the Communist Party and its control of the media. He was imprisoned in Yingkou, in Liaoning province.
Yingkou Ribao reported on February 24, 2005, that authorities had officially arrested Zheng on suspicion of inciting subversion. Zheng’s family was warned not to publicize his arrest, and they remained silent until state media reported it.
Zheng was initially tried by Yingkou Intermediate People’s Court on April 26, 2005. No verdict was announced. On July 21, he was tried again on the same charges. As in the April 26 trial, proceedings lasted just three hours. Though officially “open” to the public, the courtroom was closed to all observers except close family members and government officials. Zheng’s supporters and a journalist were prevented from entering, according to a local source.
Prosecutors cited dozens of articles written by the journalist, and listed the titles of several essays in which he called for political reform, increased capitalism in China, and an end to the practice of imprisoning writers.
On September 20, the court sentenced Zheng to seven years in prison, to be followed by three years’ deprivation of political rights.
Sources familiar with the case believe that Zheng’s harsh sentence may be linked to Chinese leaders’ objections to the Dajiyuan series “Nine Commentaries on the Communist Party,” a widely read and controversial look at Chinese Communist Party history and current practices.
Zheng is diabetic, and has not received adequate treatment in prison, according to his brother.
Zhang Lin, freelance
Imprisoned: January 29, 2005
Zhang, a political essayist who wrote regularly for overseas online news sites, was detained on his return to Bengbu in central China’s Anhui province after traveling to Beijing to mourn the death of Zhao Ziyang, the ousted general secretary of the Communist Party.
Scheduled for release after 15 days of administrative detention, Zhang was instead put in “criminal detention” on suspicion of “endangering state security.” The allegations were linked to essays by Zhang that were critical of the Communist Party and called for political reform and democracy in China. On March 19, 2005, Zhang’s wife Fang Caofang received notice that he had been formally arrested on allegations of inciting subversion.
The indictment against him, filed on May 23, accused Zhang of using the Internet and overseas radio transmissions “to openly disseminate language that misrepresents and denigrates the national authorities and the socialist system, and which incites subversion of state power and the overthrow of the socialist system under Article 105 of China’s criminal law,” according to a translation by the New York-based group Human Rights in China.
On June 21, Zhang pleaded not guilty to the charges filed against him. His trial at the Intermediate People’s Court of Bengbu in central China’s Anhui province concluded within five hours, defense lawyer Mo Shaoping told CPJ.
The defense argued that the six articles and one interview cited by the prosecution were protected free expression. Zhang’s wife believes that his imprisonment is also connected to essays he wrote about protests by unemployed workers and official scandals, according to Agence France-Presse.
On July 28, the court convicted Zhang and sentenced him to five years in prison. Zhang’s appeals were rejected twice. He is detained at Bengbu No. 1 Detention Center.
Zhang began a hunger strike on September 1, was hospitalized briefly, and returned to the detention center, according to local sources. He waged the hunger strike for 28 days to protest his unjust sentence and the harsh conditions of his detention center.
Prison officials subjected him to long hours of forced labor and refused to allow him to read newspapers or other material, according to his lawyer. Zhang was forced to make Christmas ornaments before the hunger strike made him too weak to work, according to a CPJ source.
Ching Cheong, The Straits Times
Imprisoned: April 22, 2005
Ching, a veteran Hong Kong reporter who was the China correspondent for the Singapore daily The Straits Times, has been held without access to a lawyer since April 22. His wife, Mary Lau, said that Ching was detained in Guangzhou while attempting to obtain a transcript of interviews of the ousted leader Zhao Ziyang. Zhao died this year after spending 15 years under house arrest for opposing the military crackdown at Tiananmen Square in 1989.
In May, after learning privately from a mainland government official that her husband would be charged with “stealing core state secrets,” Lau decided to go public with the news of her husband’s detention, according to The Washington Post. Though Lau and The Straits Times had known since April that Ching was detained, they were warned by authorities not to report the detention, and stayed silent in an effort to obtain his release through diplomatic means, The Post reported.
A week later, the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to news reports about the journalist’s imprisonment by stating that Ching had admitted his involvement in espionage. Authorities did not provide evidence for the accusation, and Ching’s employers and family were unable to contact him directly to seek his version of events, or to provide him with legal counsel. Ching was held under house arrest in Beijing.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan denied that Ching’s detention was related to his efforts to gain access to the interviews conducted by Zong. “I can tell you plainly that Ching’s case is not connected to Zhao Ziyang at all. …The key thing is that Ching himself admitted to his illegal activities,” said Kong, according to Reuters.
On August 5, Xinhua News Agency reported that Ching had been formally arrested on suspicion of spying for Taiwan. The report said that Ching was accused of collecting millions of Hong Kong dollars between early 2000 and March 2005 for the purpose of “setting up channels of espionage in Hong Kong and the island” on the instructions of Taiwan’s National Security Bureau. Authorities allege that Ching used the name Chen Yuanchun to buy information on “China’s political, economic and especially military affairs,” including some classified as “top secret,” and passed it on to Taiwanese intelligence, harming national security.
If charged and convicted for this crime, Ching could receive the death penalty under Chinese law.
Ching has been a reporter for the Singapore daily since 1996. He was formerly a reporter for Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper with links to the Communist Party. In 1989, he resigned in protest of the government’s military crackdown at Tiananmen Square. Ching holds a British overseas national passport and is a legal resident of Singapore.
Li Jianping, freelance
Imprisoned: May 27, 2005
Authorities detained Li on May 27 in Zibo, a city in northeastern China’s Shandong province, and formally arrested him for defamation on June 30, according to ChinaEForum, a U.S.-based dissident news forum. Charges have not been filed.
Local police had summoned the journalist to the police station days before detaining him, Li’s wife told the editors of ChinaEForum. She also said that government-employed Internet-control personnel had searched his computer.
Li wrote frequently for overseas news Web sites banned in China, such as Boxun News, Epoch Times, China Democracy and ChinaEWeekly. Some of his articles directly criticized Chinese Communist Party leadership, including former and current Chinese presidents Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao. Just days before his detention, Li wrote a strongly critical analysis of Hu Jintao’s policy toward Taiwan, posted on ChinaEWeekly on May 17. It was unclear which of his articles led to his detention.
In August, Li was formally indicted on charges of inciting subversion, a charge that usually results in a prison term of several years.
Yang Maodong (also known as Guo Feixiong), freelance
Imprisoned: September 12, 2005
Freelance writer Yang Maodong, commonly known by his pen name Guo Feixiong, was detained in mid-September after reporting on attempts by villagers in Taishi village, Guangdong province, to oust a village chief. Guo was formally arrested on October 4 by the Panyu District Public Security bureau in Guangzhou after being accused of “sending news overseas” and “gathering crowds to disturb public order.”
Guo, a prolific writer, also worked as a legal analyst for the Beijing-based Shengzhi law firm, and had been advocating for villagers in Taishi attempting to stage a recall campaign of their village chief, whom they accused of corruption. The protests grew into a national crisis when mobs that appeared to be employed by the local government beat foreign journalists and Chinese activists, and threatened local villagers. Guo was detained a day after 1,000 riot police stormed the government office to remove local villagers who had been protesting there.
Guo gave information on Taishi to foreign journalists, and wrote detailed reports on the situation through the online Yannan bulletin board. The site was later shut down by the government for its coverage.
Guo was held at the Panyu District Detention Center and went on a hunger strike after being detained.
A Panyu city government spokesman, quoted in the official English-language newspaper China Daily, said Guo “called upon the villagers to appeal and stage hunger strikes … kept himself updated on the ‘latest developments’ in Taishi village, and then tried all means to exploit foreign media and Web sites to spread distorted reports and rumors.” The official also accused Guo of illegally collecting money from the villagers.
On October 29, Guo received a letter from the Panyu District Procuratorate, which stated his case had been returned for verification to the Panyu Public Security bureau, according to the U.S.-based human rights advocacy Web site Chinese Rights Defenders. The return of Guo’s case could indicate a disagreement between the procuratorate and the Public Security Bureau over whether to prosecute Guo. Guo wrote a letter to request that his lawyer Gao Zhisheng in Beijing consider the new turn in the case. But Gao was suspended by the Beijing authorities from practicing as a lawyer before he could act.
return to top
Alejandro González Raga, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
González Raga, an independent freelance journalist based in central Camagüey province, was tried and convicted under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to a 14-year prison term, which he is serving in Canaleta prison in central Ciego de Ávila province.
Alfredo Pulido López, El Mayor
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Pulido López, director of the independent news agency El Mayor in central Camagüey province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 14 years in prison and taken to the Combinado del Este prison in Havana, hundreds of miles from his home. In August 2004, he was transferred to Kilo 7 Prison, in his native Camagüey province.
The journalist’s wife, Rebeca Rodríguez Souto, told CPJ that he looked pale and very thin during her visits in 2005. He has suffered from severe headaches, neck pain, respiratory problems, high blood pressure, and other medical problems, she said.
Iván Hernández Carrillo, Patria
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Hernández Carrillo, a journalist with the independent news agency Patria in western Matanzas province, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison, which he is serving at Cuba Sí Prison in eastern Holguín province, hundreds of miles from his home.
Hernández Carrillo was originally placed in the Holguín Provincial Prison. In 2003, prison officials placed Hernández Carrillo in a punishment cell after he complained of illness. He waged two hunger strikes, in 2003 and 2004, to protest inadequate food and medicine, and to call attention to threats made against him by other prisoners and prison officials. He was transferred to Cuba Sí Prison in August 2004.
José Gabriel Ramón Castillo, Instituto Cultura y Democracia Press
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Ramón Castillo, director of the independent news agency Instituto Cultura y Democracia Press, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term and was sent to Villa Clara Provincial Prison in central Cuba, hundreds of miles from his home.
In July 2004, prison officials searched Ramón Castillo’s cell and confiscated his notes, a diary, and letters, according to the Miami-based CubaNet Web site.
Ramón Castillo suffers from a heart condition, liver problems, and high blood pressure, according to his brother, Jorge Ramón Castillo. With his health deteriorating, Ramón Castillo was transferred to the Carlos J. Finlay military hospital in Havana in November 2004. In February 2005, Ramón Castillo was transferred to Boniato Prison in his native Santiago de Cuba province, in eastern Cuba. There, he shares a cell with two common criminals.
In 2005, his brother said, Ramón Castillo began suffering from a sleep disorder and severe anxiety. A Catholic, Ramón Castillo has not had access to a priest or other religious guidance.
José Luis García Paneque, Libertad
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
García Paneque, director of the independent news agency Libertad in eastern Las Tunas province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 24 years in prison, which he is now serving at Las Mangas Prison in eastern Granma province.
Originally placed at Guamajal Prison in central Villa Clara province, he was transferred a number of times before being taken to the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana for a medical checkup. His wife, Yamilé Llanes, said he had been suffering from diarrhea for a full year and had lost at least 30 pounds before getting treatment. He was finally diagnosed with an intestinal ailment.
In June 2005, Llanes told CPJ that her husband was suffering from malnutrition, his weight having dropped from 190 pounds to about 120 pounds. She said his blood pressure was very low and he was still having bouts of diarrhea. Llanes said he was not getting the high-protein diet he needed.
Julio César Gálvez Rodríguez, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Gálvez Rodríguez, a Havana-based independent freelance journalist, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was being held at Combinado del Este Prison in Havana.
Gálvez Rodríguez suffers from several ailments, including high blood pressure, liver problems, high cholesterol, and urinary problems. These illnesses have either arisen or worsened during his imprisonment, according to his wife, Beatriz del Carmen Pedroso. From February 26 to July 9, 2004, Gálvez was hospitalized and underwent gallbladder surgery. Pedroso has told CPJ she was very worried about her husband’s health, including his increased anxiety.
Léster Luis González Pentón, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
González Pentón, an independent journalist based in central Villa Clara province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” He was sentenced to 20 years in prison in April 2003. He was transferred a number of times before being taken to a military hospital in Havana for a medical checkup.
His mother, Mireya de la Caridad Pentón, told CPJ that he was diagnosed with chronic gastritis, sinusitis, and lower back pain, she said. In addition, she said, his imprisonment and the separation from his young daughter had caused him anxiety.
Miguel Galván Gutiérrez, Havana Press
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Galván Gutiérrez, a journalist with the independent news agency Havana Press, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 26 years in prison, which he was serving at Agüica Prison in western Matanzas province.
In May 2004, Galván Gutiérrez was moved from solitary confinement to a cell with hardened criminals, according to the Miami-based CubaNet Web site. In a May phone call from prison, he told his family that prison officials had threatened him and were inciting other prisoners to attack him, CubaNet reported.
Omar Rodríguez Saludes, Nueva Prensa Cubana
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Rodríguez Saludes, director of the independent news agency Nueva Prensa Cubana, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 27 years in prison. He was transferred a number of times before being placed at the Toledo Prison in Havana.
Rodríguez Saludes was in good health but complained about the poor quality of prison food, his wife, Ileana Marrero Joa, told CPJ in June 2005. He was sharing a prison cubicle with hardened prisoners.
Pedro Argüelles Morán, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Argüelles Morán, director of the independent news agency Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes in central Ciego de Ávila province, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he received a 20-year prison term, which he was serving at Canaleta Prison in central Ciego de Ávila province.
Argüelles Morán had been moved from prison to prison several times. His wife, Yolanda Vera Nerey, told CPJ in November 2004 that Argüelles Morán suffered from inflammation in his left knee. He was hospitalized in February 2005 after his liver was found to be inflamed. Vera Nerey said he developed emphysema in prison, and eye problems had worsened to the point of near blindness. Vera Nerey said that he continued to suffer from inflammation in his knees and legs, and that a doctor had diagnosed him with arthritis.
Ricardo González Alfonso, freelance
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
González Alfonso, an independent freelance journalist and Cuba correspondent for the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to a 20-year prison term. González Alfonso is also the president of the independent journalists’ association Sociedad de Periodistas Manuel Márquez Sterling.
González Alfonso was first placed in Kilo 8 Prison in central Camagüey province, hundreds of miles from his home. He spent seven months in solitary confinement there. In November 2003, he was transferred to a cell with hardened criminals who harassed him. González Alfonso went on a two-week hunger strike in December 2003 to demand his transfer to another unit within the prison where he could be with other political prisoners. As punishment for the strike, prison officials placed him in a small cell with no running water that was lit 24 hours a day, where he remained until late December 2003.
González Alfonso has had numerous health problems. He suffered from high blood pressure, and a cyst was found in his throat. In July 2004, González Alfonso was admitted to the Amalia Simoni Hospital in the city of Camagüey, where he was diagnosed with hepatitis. A prison transfer later, González Alfonso was taken to the hospital in Combinado del Este Prison in January 2005 for gallbladder surgery. His surgical wounds didn’t properly heal and he developed a lingering bacterial infection, according to his wife, Alida Viso Bello.
Víctor Rolando Arroyo Carmona, Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes (UPECI)
Imprisoned: March 18, 2003
Arroyo Carmona, a journalist with the independent news agency Unión de Periodistas y Escritores de Cuba Independientes (UPECI) in western Pinar del Río province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he received a 26-year prison sentence. He was placed at the Guantánamo Provincial Prison in eastern Guantánamo province, hundreds of miles from his home.
In December 2004, Arroyo Carmona was taken to the Combinado del Este Prison in Havana for a medical checkup. According to the Miami-based CubaNet Web site, which quoted his wife, Elsa González Padrón, he was diagnosed with pulmonary emphysema and other ailments.
On September 8, 2005, Arroyo went on a hunger strike to protest mistreatment, his sister Blanca Arroyo told CPJ. He was subsequently taken to the prison hospital. Arroyo’s wife, Elsa González Padrón, learned of the hunger strike from family members of other dissidents at the Guantánamo Provincial Prison, Blanca Arroyo said. González, who hadn’t seen Arroyo for four months, made the long journey from her home in Pinar del Río on September 21, but she was forced to wait several days before getting permission to visit.
González was finally able to see her husband for about 10 minutes on October 2, Blanca Arroyo said. The following morning, Arroyo was taken to a hospital in neighboring Holguín province. His wife reported that he looked weak, his voice was barely audible, and his skin had a yellow cast, Blanca Arroyo said. He ended his hunger strike the same day, after receiving assurances from authorities that he would get better treatment in Holguín, his sister said. But on October 13, after 10 days in the hospital, Arroyo was transferred back to Holguín Provincial Prison, his wife told CPJ.
Adolfo Fernández Saínz, Patria
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Fernández Saínz, a journalist with the independent news agency Patria, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was placed at the Holguín Provincial Prison in eastern Holguín province, hundreds of miles from his home.
In 2003 and 2004, Fernández Saínz waged at least three hunger strikes to protest inadequate food and medicine, along with the mistreatment of fellow prisoners. Julia Núñez Pacheco, the wife of Fernández Saínz, told CPJ in 2004 that she was very concerned that the hunger strikes and poor prison food had taken a great toll on her husband. In December 2004, Fernández Saínz was taken to the Combinado del Este Prison for a medical checkup, which revealed he had several ailments, including emphysema, a hernia, high blood pressure, and a small kidney cyst.
Joana Fernández Núñez, the journalist’s daughter, told CPJ in 2005 that his family was very worried that he had lost about 25 pounds. When his family sought to give him some pork during a January 6, 2005, visit, prison officials initially barred the delivery and relented only after a long, heated argument, she said.
Fernández Saínz waged another hunger strike in August 2005, to protest the mistreatment of imprisoned dissident Arnaldo Ramos Lauzurique. Fernández Saínz began the strike after learning that Ramos Lauzurique had been beaten by a prison officer and placed in a punishment cell, according to Fernández Núñez.
Alfredo Felipe Fuentes, freelance
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Fuentes, an independent freelance journalist based in western Habana province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to a 26-year prison term. He was placed at Guamajal Prison in central Villa Clara province, hundreds of miles from his home.
His wife, Loyda Valdés González, told CPJ in May 2004 that her husband was fed broth and foul-smelling ground meat for months. As a result, he lost a lot of weight, some of which he recovered after spending a month at a hospital in the city of Santa Clara. In 2005, Fuentes shared a prison unit with around 60 inmates convicted of common crimes.
Fabio Prieto Llorente, freelance
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Prieto Llorente, an independent freelance journalist based in western Isla de la Juventud Special Municipality, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison. He was eventually jailed at Kilo 8 Prison in central Camagüey province, hundreds of miles from his home.
The transfer to Kilo 8 caused Prieto Llorente to sink into depression because it was difficult for his family to visit, according to his sister, Clara Lourdes Prieto Llorente. Prieto Llorente, who was placed in a damp and poorly lit cell on his arrival at Kilo 8, suffered from hemorrhoids, high blood pressure, back pain, and emphysema, family members said.
Prieto Llorente waged a hunger strike in August 2004. He was harassed for protesting his conditions, according to CubaNet. Ramona Mirta Llorente, the journalist’s mother, told CPJ that he has had to endure solitary confinement and the withholding of family mail.
Héctor Maseda Gutiérrez, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Maseda Gutiérrez, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state;” and under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he received a 20-year prison term, which he was serving at La Pendiente Prison in central Villa Clara province.
In July 2003, Maseda Gutiérrez’s wife, Laura Pollán, told CPJ that he had been diagnosed with skin rashes triggered by prison conditions. Pollán said that prison authorities would not allow her to bring clean sheets and medicine to her husband.
In August 2004, Maseda Gutiérrez was transferred to a cell with repeat offenders, according to Pollán. He was concerned that prison authorities would encourage the hardened prisoners to harass him. Pollán said she appealed to Cuban authorities to grant him amnesty, but government officials did not respond to her request.
On January 17, 2005, Pollán said, she was summoned to a State Security Department (DSE) office in Havana, blamed for her husband’s attitude, and threatened with imprisonment for “defaming” the DSE. She was told to keep quiet about her husband’s situation and to cooperate with the DSE. Pollán has regularly hosted relatives of imprisoned journalists and dissidents at her house. She told CPJ she believed the government was trying to force her to adopt a lower profile.
On January 26, Maseda Gutiérrez was transferred to a high-security unit within the Villa Clara Provincial Prison, also in Villa Clara province. In a January 29 letter from prison that Pollán made available to CPJ, Maseda Gutiérrez wrote that his transfer was “a sort of punishment” and the “worst violation yet committed against me.” He complained about the harsh treatment there, which included being handcuffed whenever he was taken outside, to make a phone call, or to visit prison doctors.
José Ubaldo Izquierdo, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Ubaldo Izquierdo, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro in western Habana province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 16 years in prison. After a transfer, he was jailed at Guanajay Prison in western Habana province.
Juan Carlos Herrera Acosta, Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Herrera Acosta, a journalist with the independent news agency Agencia de Prensa Libre Oriental in eastern Guantánamo province, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he received a 20-year prison term.
In August 2003, Herrera Acosta joined imprisoned journalists Manuel Vázquez Portal and Normando Hernández González and other jailed dissidents at Boniato Prison in a one-week hunger strike. As punishment for his involvement, he was transferred to Kilo 8 Prison in central Camagüey province, hundreds of miles from his home.
In October 2004, the Miami-based organization Directorio Democrático Cubano, quoting Herrera Acosta’s wife, Ileana Danger Hardy, said that prison officials badly beat the journalist that month.
In a June 2005 interview with CPJ, Danger Hardy said her husband suffered from a heart condition and high blood pressure. Since his imprisonment, she said, his ailments have worsened, and he appeared very thin during a June 8 visit. A couple of weeks before, on May 23, a prison official dragged him across a hospital hall while he was handcuffed, causing cuts to his hands, she reported. Danger Hardy said her husband has wounded himself several times to protest prison conditions and mistreatment.
Mijaíl Bárzaga Lugo, Agencia Noticiosa Cubana
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Bárzaga Lugo, a journalist with the independent news agency Agencia Noticiosa Cubana in Havana, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison, and was placed at Villa Clara Provincial Prison in central Villa Clara province, hundreds of miles from his home.
Normando Hernández González, Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Hernández González, director of the independent news agency Colegio de Periodistas Independientes de Camagüey, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
In April 2003, he was sent to Boniato Prison in eastern Santiago de Cuba province. In August, Hernández González joined imprisoned journalist Manuel Vázquez Portal and other jailed dissidents at Boniato Prison in a one-week hunger strike. As punishment for his involvement in the strike, Hernández González was sent to Kilo 5 1/2 Prison in Pinar del Río at the opposite end of the island.
In May 2004, Hernández González waged another hunger strike to protest his transfer to a cell with hardened criminals at Kilo 5 1/2. After a family visit that month, Reyes said her husband looked very thin, haggard, and pale.
In January 2005, a doctor found that Hernández González was exposed to tuberculosis but was not infected, said his wife, Yaraí Reyes. She said her husband’s overall health has worsened and he has lost weight during his imprisonment.
Omar Ruiz Hernández, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Ruiz Hernández, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro in central Villa Clara province, was tried under Article 91 of the penal code, which imposes lengthy prison sentences or death for those who act against “the independence or the territorial integrity of the state.” In April 2003, he received an 18-year prison term.
In April 2003, Ruiz Hernández was sent to the Guantánamo Provincial Prison in eastern Guantánamo province, hundreds of miles from his home. In March 2004, his wife, Bárbara Maritza Rojo Arias, told CPJ that he was stressed, was having chest pain, and was suffering from high blood pressure. Because his prison cell was poorly lit, his eyes became irritated whenever he was exposed to sunlight, Rojo Arias said.
In August 2004, Ruiz Hernández was transferred to Canaleta Prison in central Ciego de Ávila Province.
In December 2004, Ruiz Hernández was taken to the hospital at Combinado del Este Prison in Havana for a medical checkup. He was diagnosed with severe high blood pressure and was found to have a dilated aorta. Soon after, he was returned to Canaleta Prison.
In May 2005, Ruiz Hernández was taken to a small and poorly ventilated cell after he refused to stand at attention when a prison officer walked past, Rojo Arias told CPJ. During three days there in intense heat, his blood pressure increased. Rojo Arias said that her husband’s diet was very poor and he depended on the food she brought for him in her visits to the prison. In November 2005, he was taken to Nieves Morejón Prison in central Sancti Spíritus Province.
Pablo Pacheco Ávila, Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes
Imprisoned: March 19, 2003
Pacheco Ávila, a journalist with the independent news agency Cooperativa Avileña de Periodistas Independientes, was tried under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, which imposes up to 20 years in prison for committing acts “aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroying its political, economic, and social system.” In April 2003, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison, which he began serving at Agüica Prison in western Matanzas province, hundreds of miles from his home. In August 2004, he was moved to Morón Prison in Ciego de Ávila, his native province.
In March 2005, his wife, Oleivys García Echemendía, told CPJ that Pacheco Ávila suffered from high blood pressure, severe headaches, inflammation in both knees, and acute gastritis. His knee problems had worsened to the point that he could barely walk, García Echemendía said.
Oscar Mario González, Grupo de Trabajo Decoro
Imprisoned: July 22, 2005
González, a journalist with the independent news agency Grupo de Trabajo Decoro, was arrested about a block from his home in Havana, according to colleague Ana Leonor Díaz.
Authorities did not immediately say why González was detained or file any charges against him publicly. Díaz said González might have been detained in connection with a police crackdown that began July 22, when opposition activists planned to hold an antigovernment protest outside the French Embassy in Havana.
Several leaders of the protest group, the Assembly to Promote Civil Society in Cuba (APSC), were detained before they could join other protesters. In all, at least 29 people were detained; most were released without charge.
In May, González covered the APSC congress for Grupo de Trabajo Decoro. The unprecedented two-day congress brought together 200 activists and guests to discuss ways to create a democratic society in Cuba. At the time, Cuban authorities detained and expelled at least five foreign journalists who had traveled to Cuba to cover the meeting.
A police investigator told the journalist’s relatives that he would be prosecuted under Law 88 for the Protection of Cuba’s National Independence and Economy, Diaz reported. The law sets penalties of up to 20 years in prison for anyone who commits “acts that in agreement with imperialist interests are aimed at subverting the internal order of the nation and destroy its political, economic, and social system.”
As of December 1, Cuban authorities had yet to formally charge González. He was being held by police in Havana.
Albert Santiago Du Bouchet Hernández, Havana Press
Imprisoned: August 6, 2005
Du Bouchet Hernández was arrested on August 6, tried three days later, and handed a one-year jail term–all without the knowledge of his family, who learned of his detention only after he smuggled a note out of prison. Du Bouchet Hernández is director of the independent news agency Havana Press, which sends reports to the Miami-based Web site Nueva Prensa Cubana.
Du Bouchet Hernández was detained on a reporting trip to Artemisa, 38 miles (60 kilometers) from Havana, according to his wife, Bárbara Pérez Araya. He was charged with “disrespecting” the local chief of police and resisting arrest. He was sent to the Melena del Sur prison in Habana province after his conviction.
Pérez Araya told CPJ said her husband did not have access to a lawyer before or during the trial, that the charges were fabricated, and that his trial was “a sham.”
Du Bouchet Hernández covered the congress of the Assembly to Promote Civil Society (APSC) in May 2005. The two-day gathering, unprecedented in Cuba, brought together 200 opposition activists and guests to discuss ways to create a democracy in Cuba.
Pérez Araya said state security agents warned Du Bouchet Hernández in May and July to stop work or face imprisonment. They ordered him to appear at a police station on the opening day of the APSC meeting, but he ignored the summons and covered the conference.
Neither Pérez Araya nor her husband has received a copy of the court ruling. She said her husband has not been able to sleep well in jail. She took him sedatives and other medication but he was only allowed to receive headache pills.
return to top
DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO: 1
Patrice Booto, Le Journal and Pool Malebo
Imprisoned: November 2, 2005
Security forces arrested Booto, publisher of the thrice-weekly Le Journal and its sister publication, Pool Malebo. Booto was detained at a police station in the capital, Kinshasa, according to the local press freedom organization Journaliste en Danger (JED).
On November 10, Booto was transferred to the state security court, where he was charged the following day with publishing “false rumors.” He was questioned about articles published in the two newspapers in mid-September that claimed the government had given a large sum of money to Tanzanian education agencies while Congolese teachers were on strike for more pay.
Le Journal and Pool Malebo were suspended for three months in September by the independent but officially sanctioned High Authority on Media (HAM), over the same reports. Some local sources suspected that the HAM’s action was the product of political pressure.
Representatives from JED were able to meet with the jailed journalist on November 9. He said he had been forced at gunpoint to reveal his source for the story and that the source was arrested, JED reported. The name of the source was not revealed.
return to top
Zemenfes Haile, Tsigenay
Imprisoned: January 1999
Haile, founder and manager of the private weekly Tsigenay, was detained by Eritrean authorities and sent to Zara Labor Camp in the country’s lowland desert. Authorities accused Haile of failing to complete the national service program, but sources told CPJ that the journalist completed the program in 1994.
Near the end of 2000, Haile was transferred to an unknown location. CPJ sources said he was released from prison in 2002 but was sent to the army to perform national service. CPJ sources believe that Haile’s continued deprivation of liberty is part of the government’s general crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001.
Ghebrehiwet Keleta, Tsigenay
Imprisoned: July 2000
Keleta, a reporter for the private weekly Tsigenay, was kidnapped by security agents on his way to work sometime in July 2000 and has not been seen since. The reasons for Keleta’s arrest remain unclear, but some CPJ sources believe that Keleta’s continued detention is part of the government’s general crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001.
Amanuel Asrat, Zemen
Medhanie Haile, Keste Debena
Yusuf Mohamed Ali, Tsigenay
Mattewos Habteab, Meqaleh
Temesken Ghebreyesus, Keste Debena
Said Abdelkader, Admas
Dawit Isaac, Setit
Seyoum Tsehaye, freelance
Dawit Habtemichael, Meqaleh
Fesshaye “Joshua” Yohannes, Setit
Imprisoned: September 2001
In the days following September 18, 2001, Eritrean security forces arrested at least 10 local journalists. The arrests came less than a week after authorities abruptly closed all privately owned newspapers, allegedly to safeguard national unity in the face of growing political turmoil in the tiny Horn of Africa nation.
International news reports quoted presidential adviser Yemane Gebremeskel as saying that the journalists could have been arrested for avoiding military service. Sources in the capital, Asmara, however, said that at least two of the detained journalists, freelance photographer Tsehaye and Mohamed Ali, editor of Tsigenay, were legally exempt from national service. Tsehaye was reportedly exempt as an independence war veteran, while Mohamed Ali was apparently well over the maximum age for military service.
CPJ sources said the suspension and subsequent arrests of independent journalists were part of a full-scale government effort to suppress political dissent in advance of December 2001 elections, which the government canceled without explanation.
On March 31, 2002, the 10 jailed reporters began a hunger strike to protest their continued detention without charge, according to local and international sources. In a message smuggled from inside the Police Station One detention center in Asmara, the journalists said they would refuse food until they were either released or charged and given a fair trial. Three days later, nine of the strikers were transferred to an undisclosed detention facility. According to CPJ sources, Swedish national Isaac was sent to a hospital, where he was treated for post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of alleged torture while in police custody.
During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to Asmara, a presidential official told a CPJ delegation that only “about eight” news professionals were being held in detention facilities, whose locations he refused to disclose.
Swedish diplomats have worked to win Isaac’s freedom. He was released for a medical checkup on November 19, 2005, and allowed to phone his family and a friend in Sweden. Isaac was returned to jail two days later, according to CPJ sources.
Selamyinghes Beyene, Meqaleh
Imprisoned: Fall 2001
Beyene, a reporter for the independent weekly Meqaleh, was arrested sometime in the fall of 2001. CPJ was unable to confirm the reasons for his arrest, but Eritrean sources believe that his detention was part of the government’s general crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001. In 2002 he was taken to do military service, and was still performing his national service requirement, according to CPJ sources.
Hamid Mohammed Said, Eritrean State Television
Saleh Aljezeeri, Eritrean State Radio
Imprisoned: February 15, 2002
During a July 2002 fact-finding mission to the capital, Asmara, CPJ delegates confirmed that around February 15, Eritrean authorities arrested Said, a journalist for the state-run Eritrean State Television (ETV); Saadia Ahmed, a journalist with the Arabic-language service of ETV; and Aljezeeri, a journalist for Eritrean State Radio. Ahmed was released, according to CPJ sources, although the date is unclear.
The reasons for their arrests are unclear, but CPJ sources in Eritrea believe that their continued detention was related to the government’s general crackdown on the press, which began in September 2001.
return to top
Dawit Kebede, Hadar
Feleke Tibebu, Hadar
Imprisoned: November 2, 2005
Zekarias Tesfaye, Netsanet
Dereje Habtewolde, Netsanet
Fassil Yenealem, Addis Zena
Wosonseged Gebrekidan, Addis Zena
Andualem Ayle, Ethiop
Nardos Meaza, Satanaw
Mesfin Tesfaye, Abay
Wenakseged Zeleke, Asqual
Imprisoned: November 9-14, 2005
Serkalem Fassil, Menilik, Asqual and Satanaw
Iskinder Nega, freelance
Imprisoned: November 27, 2005
Sisay Agena, Ethiop and the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists Association
Imprisoned: November 29, 2005
In a massive crackdown on the private press following antigovernment protests, authorities arrested at least 13 editors and publishers in the capital, Addis Ababa. Police prevented most private newspapers from publishing; raided newspaper offices, confiscating computers, documents and other materials; and forced much of the remaining press into hiding. The journalists were jailed along with dozens of opposition and civil society leaders. On November 9, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi threatened to charge detainees with treason, which is punishable by death in Ethiopia.
The crackdown began amid clashes between security forces and opposition supporters who accused Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging polls in May that returned him to power. More than 40 people were killed in a week of violence, which began on November 1.
Starting on November 5, the government released a list of people it planned to prosecute for attempting to “violently undermine the constitutional order in the country.” The list identified 17 publishers and editors of eight private, Amharic-language weekly newspapers, in addition to opposition leaders, the heads of the Ethiopian Teachers’ Association, and local representatives of the international charity Action Aid. It also included the president of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists’ Association (EFJA), Kifle Mulat. State media distributed photographs of many of these journalists and called on the public to tell police their whereabouts.
Security and intelligence agents arrested nine of the targeted journalists, many of whom were in hiding. Four more turned themselves in after their names were listed.
The detained journalists were not immediately charged. Several appeared in court, along with dozens of detained opposition leaders, trade unionists, and others arrested in the crackdown. They were denied bail, and their detention was extended while police investigated their supposed activities, according to local and international news reports.
return to top
Akbar Ganji, Sobh-e
Emrooz and Fath
Imprisoned: April 22, 2000
Ganji, a leading investigative reporter for the now-defunct reformist daily Sobh-e-Emrooz and a member of the editorial board of the now-defunct, pro-reform daily Fath, was prosecuted in Iran’s Press Court and its Revolutionary Court.
The case in the Press Court stemmed from Ganji’s investigative articles about the 1998 killings of several dissidents and intellectuals that implicated top intelligence officials and former President Hashemi Rafsanjani. In the Revolutionary Court, Ganji was accused of promoting propaganda against the Islamic regime and threatening national security in comments he made at an April 2000 conference in Berlin on the future of the reform movement in Iran.
The result of the case in the Press Court remains unclear, but on January 13, 2001, the Revolutionary Court sentenced Ganji to 10 years in prison, followed by five years of internal exile. In May 2001, after Ganji had already served more than a year in prison, an appellate court reduced his punishment to six months.
The Iranian Justice Department then appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, arguing that the appellate court had committed errors in commuting the original 10-year sentence. The Supreme Court overturned the appellate court’s decision and referred the case to a different appeals court. On July 16, 2001, that court sentenced Ganji to six years in jail. According to the state news agency IRNA, the ruling was “definitive,” meaning that it cannot be appealed.
Mojtaba Saminejad, freelance
Imprisoned: February 12, 2005
On June 2, 2005, Saminejad, a 25-year-old blogger, was sentenced to two years in prison for “insulting the supreme leader.” He has not been allowed to appeal the ruling and the specifics of the case have not been disclosed. The prosecution is widely believed to be the result of his Web logs, which were critical of the Iranian government. He is in Gohar Dashat prison outside Tehran.
Saminejad was jailed in February, when Tehran’s chief prosecutor summoned him for a court hearing. He had been detained previously, in November 2004, after reporting the arrests of three fellow bloggers on his Web site, and released in January 2005.
He was also charged with “insulting the prophets,” which is punishable by death, but a Tehran court cleared him of that count in June.
return to top
Abdul Ameer Younis Hussein, CBS News
Imprisoned: April 5, 2005
Hussein, an Iraqi cameraman working for CBS News, was taken into custody after being wounded by U.S. forces’ fire on April 5 while he filmed clashes in Mosul in northern Iraq. CBS News reported at the time that the U.S. military said footage in the journalist’s camera led them to suspect he had prior knowledge of attacks on coalition forces. AFP also cited U.S. officials as saying the journalist “tested positive for explosive residue.”
No charges have been made public and the evidence used to hold him remains classified. The New York Times reported that the U.S. military referred Hussein’s case to Iraqi justice officials who reviewed Hussein’s file but declined to prosecute him. Nevertheless, Hussein remained in U.S. custody.
U.S. military officials have made unspecific accusations that Hussein was “engaged in anti-coalition activity,” and that he had been “recruiting and inciting Iraqi nationals to violence against coalition forces and participating in attacks against coalition forces.” Military officials did not provide any evidence to support these accusations.
CBS, CPJ, and other groups sought information about the detention but were unable to obtain further details.
Samir Mohammed Noor, Reuters
Imprisoned: May 2005
Noor, a freelance television cameraman working for Reuters, was arrested by Iraqi troops at his home in the northern town of Tal Afar in May 2005 and ordered detained indefinitely by the U.S.-Iraqi Combined Review and Release Board, which oversees detentions in Iraq.
A U.S. military spokesman told the news agency that Noor was determined to be “an imperative threat to the coalition forces and the security of Iraq.” U.S. officials did not specify the basis for the accusation. Reuters said he was held at Camp Bucca in southern Iraq.
Ali al-Mashhadani, Reuters
Imprisoned: August 8, 2005
Al-Mashhadani, a freelance photographer and cameraman for Reuters news agency, was held incommunicado and without explanation by U.S. forces since his detention on August 8. Al-Mashhadani was taken from his home in Ramadi during a general sweep of the neighborhood by U.S. Marines who became suspicious after seeing pictures on his cameras, Reuters quoted his family as saying.
He was placed in Abu Ghraib Prison. Reuters reported that the U.S.-Iraqi Combined Review and Release Board, which oversees detentions in Iraq, determined that al-Mashhadani posed a “threat” and ordered his continued detention. U.S. officials told Reuters that al-Mashhadani would be denied access to counsel or family for 60 days, but would be granted a review of his case within 180 days. Officials did not publicly substantiate the basis for his continued detention.
Majed Hameed, Al-Arabiya and Reuters
Imprisoned: September 15, 2005
Hameed, a reporter working with the Dubai-based broadcaster Al-Arabiya and a freelancer for Reuters, was arrested along with several other men at a gathering that followed the funeral of a relative in Anbar province.
Both Reuters and Al-Arabiya have said his arrest appears connected to footage found on his camera by U.S. troops. U.S. officials did not explain the basis for his detention. According to Al-Arabiya, Hameed was held at a U.S. facility in western Anbar province.
return to top
Abdel Raziq al-Mansouri, freelance
Imprisoned: January 12, 2005
Al-Mansouri, a 52-year-old Internet writer, was arrested in the city of Tobruk in apparent reprisal for Internet writings that were critical of the Libyan government.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch, which visited al-Mansouri in Abu Selim prison in May, reported that al-Mansouri wrote about 50 articles on the United Kingdom-based Web site Akhbar-Libya. Human Rights Watch said Libyan security agents questioned al-Mansouri about his writings and confiscated his computer, papers, and computer disks. A brother said security agents told him that al-Mansouri had confessed to “writing articles online that criticized the state of Libya.”
Libyan security officials maintained that al-Mansouri was arrested for having a gun without a license. On October 19, a court sentenced al-Mansouri to one and a half years in prison on the weapons charge. After the sentence was passed, al-Mansouri’s family wrote to the government to protest the verdict and to state its belief that the sentence was a result of his Internet writings, according to Human Rights Watch.
return to top
Ahmed Didi, Sandhaanu
Imprisoned: February 5, 2002
Didi, Mohamed Zaki and Ibrahim Luthfee–businessmen who founded, edited, and wrote for the Dhivehi-language Internet publication Sandhaanu–were arrested along with their secretary, Fathimath Nisreen.
All four were held in solitary confinement for five months until their sentencing on July 7, 2002. After a summary three-day trial, they were convicted of defamation, incitement to violence, and treason. Didi, Luthfee, and Zaki were sentenced to life imprisonment and one year of banishment for defamation, and Nisreen received a 10-year prison sentence, with a one-year banishment for defamation. The four were sent to Maafushi Prison, which is known for its harsh conditions, 18 miles (29 kilometers) south of the capital, Malé.
Before Sandhaanu was effectively closed in early 2002, the Web site attracted a large audience by local standards, according to Luthfee. The independent publication criticized the government for alleged abuse of power and called for political reform. There is no independent press in the Maldives. Television and radio are state-run, and the country’s three newspapers are under government control. Although the Maldivian government claims that the four received a fair trial, Luthfee told CPJ that officials denied the defendants’ requests for legal representation at the time of the trial.
A Maldivian government representative in London sent a statement to the BBC in 2003 claiming that the charges against Didi, Luthfee, Nisreen, and Zaki were “purely criminal” because their publication was not officially registered, and that the four were convicted of inciting people “to violence … against a lawfully elected government.”
Luthfee told CPJ that the case against them was politically motivated, and that it was intended as a warning to others who criticize the government. Since Maldivian authorities fully control the media, Luthfee says it is impossible to write anything critical about the government in the official press. Therefore, Didi, Luthfee, and Zaki decided to launch their independent publication online from Malaysia, where Zaki immigrated from Mali in 1990. Because they were concerned about government surveillance inside the Maldives, Didi and Luthfee sent the text of Sandhaanu to Zaki in Malaysia in PDF files to upload and distribute from there.
On May 19, 2003, Luthfee escaped from custody while receiving medical treatment in Sri Lanka and has since received asylum outside the region. In the wake of prison riots in September 2003, Maldivian President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom pledged to reform his county’s prison system.
In December 2003, Zaki and Didi’s prison sentences were reduced to 15 years; Nisreen’s sentence was halved to five years, and she was banished to Feeali Island, south of Malé. All three were on medical leave when police and the National Security Service rearrested them in an August 2004 crackdown on pro-democracy reformists. After a massive tsunami struck the Maldives in December 2004, Nisreen’s remaining term was postponed. Zaki, who suffers from back and kidney problems, was released in August 2005.
Mohamed Nasheed (Colonel), Minivan Daily
Abdullah Saeed (Fahala), Minivan Daily
Imprisoned: October 13, 2005
Nasheed, known as Colonel, a columnist and political activist with the opposition publication Minivan Daily, and Saeed, also known as Fahala, a longtime journalist who is also affiliated with the opposition Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP), were summoned by police for questioning on October 13, 2005, and were kept in detention.
The state-run media reported on September 20 that several staff members of Minivan Daily, including Colonel and Fahala, were under investigation for writing critical articles about the government. Colonel was also accused of taking part in a pro-democracy rally in August 2005. Police accused Fahala of possessing a large quantity of drugs at the time of his questioning at the police station, the online version of Minivan Daily reported. Staffers at the paper accused the police of planting the drugs on Fahala.
The two journalists have been transferred from the police station to the Dhoonidhoo detention center.
A speech by Colonel titled “(President) Gayoom will do anything to stay in power” was reported in Minivan Daily, and the paper cited that as the likely motivation for his arrest.
The Maldives has a tightly restricted media, with little independent journalism. President Maumoon Gayoom has come under pressure in recent years to make democratic reforms and open up the press environment. After applying for more than a year, Minivan Daily was finally granted a license and allowed to start publishing in July 2005, a significant step. The paper is affiliated with the opposition MDP.
Minivan Daily said that the government stepped up its case against the paper after the August arrest of MDP activist Mohamed Nasheed, known as Anni. The paper investigated his arrest on terrorism charges after he made a critical speech against the president in July and published documents calling into question the legitimacy of the state’s case against him.
The paper said that the journalists are innocent and that other journalists from the paper are now at risk of arrest. Minivan Daily reported that if the journalists are prosecuted, the newspaper’s license will be revoked.
return to top
Anas Tadili, Akhbar Al Ousboue
Imprisoned: April 15, 2004
Tadili, editor of the weekly Akhbar al-Ousboue, was detained shortly after publishing an April 2004 article alleging that Economics Minister Fathallah Oualalou was homosexual. In September 2004, he was convicted of defamation and sentenced to one year in prison.
Tadili’s original sentence concluded in September 2005, but another sentence then took effect. On April 15, 2005, while he was in jail, Tadili was found guilty of breaking currency laws and sentenced to an additional four months in jail. The alleged currency violation had occurred several years earlier, but the case was revived in 2004 after the Oualalou article was published. Tadili’s supporters believe the currency case was brought in retaliation for the article.
return to top
Tej Narayan Sapkota, Yojana
Imprisoned: November 24, 2003
Sapkota, a former editor of the newspaper Yojana, was seized by two plainclothes security forces personnel from the Sarbottam printing press office in Kathmandu, according to Amnesty International. He was kept in police custody until his transfer to jail.
Sapkota is charged with murder under the controversial Terrorist and Disruptive Activities Ordinance (TADO). The ordinance allows suspects to be held without charge or trial for renewable periods of six months. Sapkota’s case has come up for hearing eight times and the government has failed to present its evidence on each occasion. Sapkota strongly denies the murder charge against him.
A delegation of CPJ and Federation of Nepalese Journalists (FNJ) representatives visited Sapkota in October 2005 in Nakkhu jail on the outskirts of Kathmandu. When the delegation inquired about Sapkota at the prison gate, the chief guard replied, “Oh, you mean the terrorist.”
Through a wire mesh barrier, Sapkota said that he had been blindfolded for five consecutive months following his arrest, and was beaten every day. His treatment improved when he was transferred to jail, he said. He was well-fed, received frequent medical attention, and was allowed access to a lawyer and communication with human rights activists and colleagues.
Sapkota and his lawyer said that they believe that authorities intend to hold him indefinitely under TADO. FNJ believes that Sapkota is being held to obtain information on Maoist sources.
return to top
Salifou Soumaila Abdoulkarim, Le Visionnaire
Imprisoned: November 12, 2005
Abdoulkarim, director of the private newspaper Le Visionnaire, was placed in “preventive detention” at police headquarters in the capital, Niamey, after State Treasurer Siddo Elhadj brought a criminal defamation suit against him. Abdoulkarim was transferred to prison on November 17 and denied bail pending his trial.
Abdoulaye Massalaki, president of Niger’s journalist union, told CPJ that preventive detention for journalists charged with defamation is allowed under Niger’s 1999 press law.
Elhadj brought the suit over an article in Le Visionnaire that accused him of embezzling 17 billion CFA francs (US$30 million) in government funds. On December 2, a Niamey court sentenced Abdoulkarim to two months in jail.
return to top
Owei Kobina Sikpi, Weekly Star
Imprisoned: October 11, 2005
Sikpi, publisher of the tabloid Weekly Star in the southern city of Port Harcourt, was arrested by agents of the State Security Service (SSS) over an article in the previous week’s edition that accused a local official of money laundering, the paper’s editor, Obinna Ahiaidu, told CPJ.
Sikpi was arrested along with four printing press staff as the Weekly Star was going to press, according to Ahiaidu. The four were released the same day, but Sikpi was held at the SSS office in Port Harcourt. He was later transferred to the city’s central prison. Security agents who raided the newspaper’s premises also impounded its 4,000-copy print run.
On October 17, Sikpi was brought before Port Harcourt High Court and charged with several counts of publishing false information, according to international news reports and a CPJ source. He was denied bail.
Sikpi was charged in relation to an article that accused the state governor of involvement in money laundering. He was also charged over articles published in May and June relating to separatist militia in the oil-rich Niger delta and the presence of former Liberian president Charles Taylor in Nigeria.
return to top
Jean Léonard Rugambage, Umuco
Imprisoned: September 7, 2005
Rugambage, a reporter for the twice-monthly newspaper Umuco, was jailed in the central town of Gitarama and accused of participating in the 1994 genocide, although several local sources told CPJ they believe he was jailed for his journalistic work. His arrest came soon after he wrote an article for the August 25 edition of Umuco that accused officials of the semi-traditional “gacaca” courts in the Gitarama region of corruption, mismanagement, and manipulating witnesses.
Gacaca courts, in which suspects are judged by their peers with no recourse to a defense lawyer, were set up to try tens of thousands of genocide suspects who have been languishing in overcrowded jails since 1994. The genocide left some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus dead in less than three months. Human rights activists and independent observers have raised concern that the courts have given rise to false accusations in some cases.
CPJ sources said accusations that Rugambage participated in the genocide were based on contradictory and vague testimony by a small number of witnesses. They said the testimony was not given until after Rugambage’s articles appeared. One witness testified to a gacaca court in Rugambage’s home village that he took part in a murder; other witnesses said he may have participated in looting and distributing arms, the sources said. Rugambage was not present at these hearings. A prisoner has written a letter stating that Rugambage was not present during the murder for which he was accused.
In November, Rugambage was found in contempt of a gacaca court and sentenced to a year in prison after he protested that the presiding judge was biased. Rugambage said the judge refused to consider defense evidence or testimony, according to CPJ sources. The underlying charges were still pending.
Umuco, which is based in Kigali and publishes mainly in Kinyarwanda, has been targeted for its criticism of the authorities. In August, its editor Bonaventure Bizumuremyi was twice held by police for questioning following an article on police corruption, and a story that called for the release of jailed opposition leader and former president Pasteur Bizimungu. In mid-September, police seized copies of Umuco and summoned Bizumuremyi several times for questioning.
return to top
Ahmed Mohammed Aden, Gedonet Online and Jubba FM
Imprisoned: November 28, 2005
Reporter Aden was jailed in the southern city of Kismayo following an online story claiming that the Jubba Valley Alliance had been importing arms in violation of a U.N. arms embargo, the National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ) reported.
The Jubba Valley faction, which controls Kismayo, accused him of posting “false information” in an article on the Gedonet Online Web site, according to NUSOJ. Aden also works for private radio station Jubba FM in Kismayo and is a prominent member of NUSOJ.
Somalia has had no functioning central government since the collapse of the Siad Barre regime in 1991. A Transitional Federal Government (TFG) established under a 2004 peace accord remains divided between factions based in the town of Jowhar and the capital, Mogadishu. Jubba Valley Alliance leader Barre “Hirale” Aden Shire is reconstruction minister in the TFG.
Aden was freed without charge on December 2, NUSOJ reported.
return to top
Jumaboy Tolibov, freelance
Imprisoned: April 24, 2005
Tolibov, an independent journalist from northern Tajikistan, was detained on April 24 in the capital of Dushanbe, at the direction of Ayni district prosecutor Sabit Azamov. Tolibov was later transferred to the Ayni district remand center in the northern region of Sogd, according to local reports.
On July 28, a Shahristan District Court judge sentenced Tolibov to two years in a prison colony on charges of hooliganism, trespassing, and abusing his office as a local government administrator, according to local and international reports.
Nuriddin Karshiboyev, head of the National Association of Independent Media of Tajikistan (NANSMIT), a press freedom group, said his organization believed the charges were fabricated in retaliation for Tolibov’s published work.
Tolibov, who is also chairman of the legal department in Ayni’s local government, wrote commentaries in the ruling party newspaper Minbar i Halq and the parliamentary newspaper Sadoi Mardum that were highly critical of the district prosecutor’s office. In three articles published in late 2004, Tolibov alleged that Azamov assaulted him and reproached local authorities for refusing to investigate. Tolibov said the attack occurred when he was seeking information from the prosecutor’s office earlier in the year.
The articles included “A barbarian prosecutor” and “Who supports a barbarian prosecutor?” in Minbar i Halq, and “Who will protect us?” in Sadoi Mardum.
Marat Mamadshoyev, a NANSMIT correspondent who monitored the 13-day trial, said the verdict came in the face of contradictory witness statements. Mamadshoyev also said several key witnesses who allegedly filed complaints against Tolibov were not present in court and instead submitted written testimony.
After the defense appealed, the Supreme Court partially overturned the conviction and ordered Tolibov’s release, according to local reports. In its October 11 ruling, the Supreme Court threw out Tolibov’s conviction for trespassing and abuse of office, and it reduced a conviction on hooliganism to a lesser charge of insult. The court also reduced Tolibov’s punishment from two years in prison to one year of corrective labor; the court accepted the six month imprisonment already served as the equivalent of a year of corrective labor. The ruling was issued two days before U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited Tajikistan.
But the prosecutor general’s office in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, moved immediately to block Tolibov’s release. Under the Tajik Code of Criminal Procedure, the prosecutor can suspend implementation of a Supreme Court decision by filing a letter of appeal. Sabbargun Kurbanova, spokesman for the prosecutor general’s office, told CPJ that it wanted to “check the rationale behind Tolibov’s release.”
return to top
Hamadi Jebali, Al-Fajr
Imprisoned: January 1991
On August 28, 1992, a military court sentenced Jebali, editor of Al-Fajr, the now-defunct weekly newspaper of the banned Islamic Al-Nahda party, to 16 years in prison. He was tried along with 279 others accused of belonging to Al-Nahda. Jebali was convicted of “aggression with the intention of changing the nature of the state” and “membership in an illegal organization.”
During his testimony, Jebali denied the charges and presented evidence that he had been tortured while in custody. Jebali has been imprisoned since January 1991, when he was sentenced to one year in jail after Al-Fajr published an article calling for the abolition of military courts in Tunisia. International human rights groups monitoring the mass trial concluded that the proceedings fell far below international standards of justice.
Jebali waged two hunger strikes in 2005 to protest his imprisonment.
Mohamed Abbou, freelance
Imprisoned: March 1, 2005
Abbou, a human rights lawyer, was arrested by Tunisian secret police on March 1. On April 28, he was handed a prison sentence of three and a half years because of an Internet article that allegedly “defamed the judicial process” and was “likely to disturb public order.”
Abbou wrote for a banned Tunisian news Web site, Tunisnews, comparing torture in Tunisia’s prisons with that of Iraq’s infamous Abu Ghraib. An appeals court upheld the verdict on June 10.
return to top
Memik Horuz, Ozgur Gelecek and Isci Koylu
Imprisoned: June 18, 2001
Horuz, editor of the leftist publications Ozgur Gelecek and Isci Koylu, was arrested and later charged with “membership in an illegal organization,” a crime under Article 168/2 of the penal code. Prosecutors based the case against Horuz on interviews he had allegedly conducted with leftist guerrillas, which Ozgur Gelecek published in 2000 and 2001.
The state also based its case on the testimony of an alleged former militant who claimed that the journalist belonged to the outlawed Marxist-Leninist Communist Party. Horuz was convicted on June 18, 2002, and sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison.
return to top
UNITED STATES NAVAL BASE, GUANTANAMO BAY: 1
Sami Muhyideen al-Haj, Al-Jazeera
Imprisoned: December 15, 2001
Al-Haj, a 35-year-old Sudanese national and assistant cameraman for Al-Jazeera, was detained by Pakistani forces after he and an Al-Jazeera reporter attempted to re-enter southern Afghanistan at the Chaman border crossing in Pakistan, station officials said.
Al-Jazeera said it sought information from Pakistan, Afghanistan, and United States. It learned of his detention–first at a U.S. detention camp in Afghanistan and later at the U.S. military facility in Guantanamo Bay–from letters he sent to the station and to his wife in care of Al-Jazeera, beginning in April 2002. Initial letters identified him as detainee #JJJSDE, Al-Jazeera said.
Youssef al-Shouli, the reporter who was with al-Haj at the border, told CPJ that the cameraman was stopped by order of Pakistani intelligence. He said a Pakistani intelligence official said that there was a problem with al-Haj’s passport. Al-Shouli was not detained.
Al-Haj’s lawyer, Clive Stafford Smith, told CPJ in October 2005 that his client was being held at Guantanamo as an accused “enemy combatant.” Smith said no specific allegations had been lodged and his client denied any wrongdoing. Al-Jazeera condemned the detention and said it fully supported al-Haj. Station representatives said al-Haj had worked for another Qatar television station before joining Al-Jazeera.
U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Chris Loundermon, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, which administers the Guantanamo military facility, would not provide any information about al-Haj, nor would he confirm the journalist’s detention. He said the information constituted confidential intelligence.
The Guardian of London reported in September 2005 that U.S. military interrogators allegedly tried to recruit al-Haj as a spy. Interrogators allegedly told him he would be released if he agreed to inform U.S. intelligence authorities about the satellite news network’s activities. In an interview with CPJ, Smith repeated the allegation. He said interrogators had been “trying to get Sami to become an informant against Al-Jazeera.”
return to top
Muhammad Bekjanov, Erk
Yusuf Ruzimuradov, Erk
Imprisoned: March 15, 1999
Bekjanov, editor of Erk, a newspaper published by the banned opposition party Erk, and Ruzimuradov, an employee of the paper, were sentenced to prison terms of 14 years and 15 years, respectively, at an August 1999 trial in the capital, Tashkent.
They were convicted of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper containing slanderous criticism of President Islam Karimov; participating in a banned political protest; and attempting to overthrow the regime. In addition, the court found them guilty of illegally leaving the country and damaging their Uzbek passports.
Both men were tortured during their six-month pretrial detention in the Tashkent City Prison, according to CPJ sources. Their health has deteriorated as a result of prison conditions.
According to human rights activists in Tashkent, on November 27, 1999, Bekjanov was transferred to “strict-regime” Penal Colony 64/46 in the city of Navoi in central Uzbekistan. He lost considerable weight and, like many prisoners in Uzbek camps, suffered from malnutrition. Local sources told CPJ that Ruzimuradov was being held in “strict-regime” Penal Colony 64/33 in the village of Shakhali near the town of Karshi.
In May 2003, the 49-year-old Bekjanov was interviewed for the first time since his imprisonment by a local correspondent for the London-based Institute for War & Peace Reporting (IWPR) and a local stringer for The Associated Press. The interview took place in the Tashkent Prison Hospital, where he was being treated for tuberculosis, which he contracted while in detention.
Bekjanov described daily torture and beatings that resulted in a broken leg and loss of hearing in his right ear, according to IWPR. The journalist and opposition activist said he intends to resume his political activities after he is released from prison in 2012. “I will do what I used to do,” Bekjanov told the AP.
By 2005, Bekjanov was placed at Prison Colony 64/62 in the city of Kagan in the Bukhara region and Ruzimuradov was serving his term at a prison colony in the Navoi region, Erk party Secretary General Atanazar Arifov told CPJ. Arifov said that the wives and children of both journalists have fled to the United States.
Gayrat Mehliboyev, freelance
Imprisoned: July 24, 2002
Mehliboyev was arrested at a bazaar in the capital, Tashkent, for allegedly participating in a rally protesting the imprisonment of members of the banned Islamist opposition party Hizb ut-Tahrir. When police searched Mehliboyev’s bed in a local hostel, they allegedly found banned religious literature that prosecutors later characterized as extremist in nature, according to international press reports.
Mehliboyev, who was unemployed at the time, admitted in court that he had studied the ideas of Hizb ut-Tahrir, but denied possessing the religious material police allegedly found in the hostel.
He had written several articles on religious issues for the government-funded Tashkent newspapers Hurriyat and Mohiyyat during 2001 and graduated from the journalism faculty at Tashkent State University in 2002, according to local press reports.
Mehliboyev was held in pretrial detention for more than six months before his trial began on February 5, 2003. Prosecutors presented as evidence of Mehliboyev’s alleged religious extremism a political commentary he had written for the April 11, 2001, edition of Hurriyat. The article questioned whether Western democracy should be a model for Uzbekistan and said that religion was the true path to achieving social justice. Prosecutors claimed that the article contained ideas from Hizb ut-Tahrir.
A Tashkent-based representative of Human Rights Watch monitored the trial and told CPJ that several times during the proceedings, Mehliboyev said he was beaten in custody, but the court ignored his comments. Mehliboyev’s brother, Shavkat, said the defendant was forced to confess to having connections to Hizb ut-Tahrir.
The Shaikhantaur Regional Court sentenced the 23-year-old Mehliboyev to seven years in prison on February 18, 2003, after convicting him of anticonstitutional activities, participating in extremist religious organizations, and inciting religious hatred, according to local and international press reports.
Mehliboyev appealed the case. On March 14, the Tashkent City Court reduced his sentence to six and a half years in prison, the Tashkent-based Independent Group for Human Rights Defenders reported.
Ortikali Namazov, Pop Tongi and Kishlok Khayoti
Imprisoned: August 11, 2004
Namazov, editor of the state newspaper Pop Tongi (Dawn of the Pop District) and correspondent for the state newspaper Kishlok Khayoti (Agricultural Life), was imprisoned while standing trial on embezzlement charges. He was later convicted of the charges–which local sources say were politically motivated–and sentenced to five and a half years in prison.
The 53-year-old journalist was charged with embezzling 14 million som (US$13,500) from Pop Tongi. The charges were filed after he wrote a series of articles about alleged abuses in local tax inspections and collective-farm management.
Namazov denied embezzling the money and said the charges were fabricated. After his trial began on August 4, Namazov complained that the judge was biased and was not allowing him to speak in his defense. Authorities took him into custody on August 11, before a verdict was reached.
The Turakurgan District Criminal Court convicted Namazov on August 16, a verdict condemned by local journalists and press freedom activists.
Mutabar Tadjibaeva, a local human rights activist who monitored the trial, told CPJ that local authorities harassed the journalist’s family during the August trial, cutting his home telephone line and firing his daughter from her job as a school doctor.
Namazov was serving his sentence at a prison in the eastern Namangan region, the Tashkent-based Ozod Ovod press freedom group reported.
Sobirdjon Yakubov, Hurriyat
Imprisoned: April 11, 2005
Yakubov, 22, was detained in the capital, Tashkent, on suspicions of religious extremism, according to local and international press reports. Three days later, he was criminally charged with “undermining the constitutional order,” Alisher Sharafutdinov, deputy minister of the interior, announced at a press conference in the capital.
The formal charge was based on Yakubov’s alleged religious activities. The government did not describe those purported actions in detail, but local reports cited Yakubov’s alleged participation in an illegal Islamic organization.
Yakubov’s colleagues said the charge was politicized and he was being punished for writing about Islam and advocating democratic reforms, according to press reports. He had recently visited the holy city of Mecca and published a series of articles about his pilgrimage, titled “A Journey to Dreamland,” local reports said.
Yakubov’s colleagues speculated that authorities might also have targeted him for a March article about slain Ukrainian journalist Georgy Gongadze. In the article, Yakubov said Gongazde’s death “became a driving force [for Ukrainians] to realize the necessity of democratic reforms and freedom.” According to some of Yakubov’s colleagues, Uzbek authorities might have interpreted that as a call for a governmental change, local reports said.
The Tashkent-based news Web site Uznews reported that Yakubov called the Hurriyat newsroom on April 11 to inform his colleagues of his detention, but for four days police denied holding him.
Shukhrat Soipov, a lawyer representing Yakubov, said in September that the journalist was being held in the main Tashkent police prison and that prosecutors were investigating, the Tashkent-based Ozod Ovod press freedom group reported. Soipov said prison officials would not allow the journalist’s family to visit Yakubov in prison.
Nosir Zokirov, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL)
Imprisoned: August 26, 2005
An Uzbek court sentenced Zokirov, an Uzbek reporter who has worked for RFE/RL’s local language service, to six months in prison for insulting a security officer, the U.S.-government-funded radio service said.
Zokirov was summoned to court in the eastern city of Namangan on August 26 on charges of insulting a National Security Service (SNB) officer in a telephone call, RFE/RL said in a statement. Zokirov was detained, tried without counsel or witnesses, sentenced, and imprisoned–all on August 26.
The charge stemmed from an August 6 phone call Zokirov made to the Namangan SNB office to protest government pressure on poet Khaidarali Khomilov. In an earlier interview with Zokirov, the poet criticized the government’s May 13 crackdown in nearby Andijan. Security forces killed hundreds of antigovernment demonstrators in the city that day, according to independent accounts.
In the aftermath of the massacre, Zokirov and other reporters working for foreign media faced harassment. Zokirov’s land and cell phone lines were cut on May 17. His mobile service provider told Zokirov the line was shut down on “higher orders,” RFE/RL said.
Zokirov appealed the conviction. On September 19, the Namangan Appeals Court examined the appeal for 15 minutes and issued a ruling upholding the conviction, the Tashkent-based Arena Committee for Freedom of Speech and Expression reported.
return to top
Nguyen Khac Toan, freelance
Imprisoned: January 8, 2002
Toan was arrested at an Internet café in the capital, Hanoi. He had reported on protests by disgruntled farmers and then transmitted his reports via the Internet to overseas pro-democracy groups. Authorities later charged him with espionage. On December 20, 2002, Toan was sentenced to 12 years in prison, one of the harshest sentences given to a Vietnamese democracy activist in recent years.
Toan served in the North Vietnamese army in the 1970s. After becoming active in Vietnam’s pro-democracy movement, he began to write articles using the pen name Veteran Tran Minh Tam.
During the National Assembly’s December 2001 and January 2002 meeting, large numbers of peasants gathered in front of the meeting hall to demand compensation for land that the government had confiscated during redevelopment efforts. Toan helped the protesters write their grievances to present to government officials. He also wrote several news reports about the demonstrations and sent the articles to overseas pro-democracy publications.
Toan’s trial took less than one day, and his lawyer was not allowed to meet with him alone until the day before proceedings began. The day after Toan was sentenced, the official Vietnamese press carried reports stating that he had “slandered and denigrated executives of the party and the state by sending electronic letters and by providing information to certain exiled Vietnamese reactionaries in France.” He is currently being held in B14 Prison, in Thanh Tri District, outside Hanoi.
In March 2005, Toan was allowed to write to his mother after almost a year of being deprived of the right to communicate with his family, according to his letter, in which he called for the aid of international statesmen and the media in protesting his unjust imprisonment.
Pham Hong Son, freelance
Imprisoned: March 27, 2002
Son, a medical doctor, was arrested after he posted an essay online about democracy. Authorities also searched his home and confiscated his computer and several documents, according to the Democracy Club for Vietnam, an organization based in both California and Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital.
Prior to his arrest, Son translated into Vietnamese and posted online an essay titled “What Is Democracy?” The article first appeared on the U.S. State Department’s Web site. Son had previously written several essays promoting democracy and human rights, all of which appeared on Vietnamese-language online forums.
After Son’s arrest, the government issued a statement claiming that his work was “antistate,” according to international press reports.
On June 18, 2003, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Son to 13 years in prison, plus an additional three years of administrative detention, or house arrest. The trial was closed to foreign diplomats and correspondents. Son’s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, was also barred from the courtroom, except when she was called to testify. On appeal in 2003, the Hanoi Supreme Court reduced Son’s prison sentence to five years.
In August 2004, Son’s wife, Vu Thuy Ha, told the U.S.-government funded Radio Free Asia that her husband was in very poor health and suffered from a hernia.
By July 2005, a U.S.-based Vietnamese dissident group, the People’s Democracy Party (PDP), reported that Son had been coughing up blood. Son remained incarcerated in 2005 despite several amnesties of political prisoners by the Vietnamese government during the past year.
Nguyen Vu Binh, freelance
Imprisoned: September 25, 2002
Security officials searched Binh’s home in Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, before arresting him, said CPJ sources. Police did not disclose the reasons for the writer’s arrest, although CPJ sources believe that his detention may be linked to an essay he wrote criticizing border agreements between China and Vietnam.
In a trial on December 31, 2003, the Hanoi People’s Court sentenced Binh on espionage charges to seven years in prison, followed by three years of house arrest upon release. Binh’s wife was the only family member allowed in the courtroom. Foreign diplomats and journalists were barred from the trial.
Following the proceedings, the official Vietnam News Agency reported that Binh was sentenced because he had “written and exchanged, with various opportunist elements in the country, information and materials that distorted the party and state policies.” He was also accused of communicating with “reactionary” organizations abroad.
Binh is a former journalist who worked for almost 10 years at Tap Chi Cong San (Journal of Communism), an official publication of Vietnam’s Communist Party. In January 2001, he left his position there after applying to form an independent opposition group called the Liberal Democratic Party.
Since then, Binh has written several articles calling for political reform and criticizing government policy. In August 2002, he wrote an article titled “Some Thoughts on the China-Vietnam Border Agreement,” which was distributed online.
In late July 2002, Binh was briefly detained after submitting written testimony to a U.S. Congressional Human Rights Caucus briefing on freedom of expression in Vietnam. Authorities then required him to report to the local police station daily. He was also subjected to frequent daylong interrogation sessions.
In 2002, Vietnamese authorities cracked down on critics of land and sea border agreements signed by China and Vietnam as part of a rapprochement following the 1979 war between the two countries. Several writers have criticized the government for agreeing to border concessions without consulting the Vietnamese people.
return to top