2012 good news: Chen Guangcheng, Patrick Okoroafor and much more
2012 has seen some dramatic developments and good news in cases we have campaigned on for years. Here are just a few highlights:
Chen Guangcheng’s extraordinary escape
In April, blind Chinese activist, Chen Guangcheng escaped house arrest in a remote Chinese village, making his way eventually, and amid much drama, to the US in May.
Our colleagues in the US had the honour of meeting Chen face-to-face last week at New York University, where the self-taught lawyer has taken up formal legal studies. He asked them to share the following message with you:
‘When you get back to your office, please say thank you to members all around the world for their continued support and concern for my family. When the opportunity arises, I shall thank them in person.’
Thousands of you took action for Chen during his years of imprisonment and house arrest, sending messages of solidarity, writing letters to the authorities and signing petitions.
Your support provided Chen with the comfort of knowing that he wasn’t forgotten — and they put the authorities on notice that Chen had our three million-strong global human rights movement on his side.
Whilst it is great that Chen is free it has come at a cost ot his family and friends who face reprisals for helping him escape.
Nigerian child prisoner freed after 17 years
In 1995 at the age of 14, Patrick Okoroafor was arrested and charged with armed robbery. Two years later at the age of 16 he was sentenced to death after an unfair trial amidst allegations of torture. Finally, in April after 17 years in prison, Patrick walked out a free man.
In 2008 when we started campaigning for his freedom Patrick was being held indefinitely, but we quickly saw progress and are delighted to have played a big part in securing his freedom.
When he was release Patrick said:
‘I am very happy to be free after 17 years of unjust incarceration.… After Amnesty began its call for my release from prison, and after reading some of the thousands of letters, cards and messages sent to me by Amnesty supporters, I began to hope that I would soon be free.'
Mexican government accepts responsibility for rape
‘Thank you for all your support; without your letters, your action and your solidarity, we would have not achieved this moment.’
These are the words of Valentina Rosendo Cantú in December 2011 after the Mexican government formally took responsibility for her rape and abuse by soldiers in 2002.
In March this year, the government also took responsibility for the rape of Inés Fernández Ortega.
We have been supporting Inés and Valentina’s campaign for justice for many years, and your solidarity has meant a lot to both women. The campaign to achieve full justice continues.
Azerbaijan prisoners of conscience freed
On 22 June Tural Abbasli and eight other prisoners of conscience were released by Presidential pardon.
All 9 men had been behind bars since last spring, punished for their connection to peaceful anti-government protests in Azerbaijan.
The news is not all positive though as none of their convictions were overturned and Tural has since been summoned to begin military service – a move we believe is intended to stop his campaigning activity.
The crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan goes on and on. Of the 17 prisoners of conscience originally detained in connection with the protests last year, only two now remain in prison.
Light at the end of the tunnel for world’s longest death row prisoner?
There has been a step forward in the case Hakamada Iwao, the world’s longest death row prisoner.
Hakamada, who was sentenced to death in Japan in 1968, after an unfair trial, has spent much of the last 44 years in solitary confinement. There has been little progress on his case in recent years and under Japan’s death penalty system he could be executed any day, without warning.
To put it another way, Hakamada has woken up every morning for the past 44 years, not knowing if it will be his last.
However in April the results of a new DNA test were released and an expert for the defence team has claimed that the victim's DNA could not be found on the clothing Hakamada is alleged to have worn.
His defence team has argued for a long time that this evidence may have been fabricated, so this just might be the key piece of evidence that leads to a long awaited retrial.
Prisoners released in Burma
On 3 July Prisoners of conscience Khun Kawrio, Ko Aye Aung, Than Zaw and Pyit Phyo Aung were released as part of a wider prisoner amnesty.
When he was released Khun Kawrio thanked everyone who supported him:
'Thank you all so much, I will keep working for democracy and human rights development in Burma and in the Kayan region. I hope to meet you all personally some time; I want to send best regard to you all.'
Find out more about the individuals, families, communities and groups we campaign on behalf of at www.amnesty.org.uk/cases
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.