Pocket Protest, our SMS action network, is one year old today. Below are updates on some of the cases the 20,000 Pocket Protestors have worked on over the last 12 months.
Azerbaijan: Peaceful protesters pardoned
In March we called for the release of Tural Abbasli and other activists who had been arrested for taking part in peaceful protests in Azerbaijan. In June Tural and eight other prisoners of conscience were released following a presidential pardon.
We have continued to campaign for an end to the crackdown on freedom of expression in Azerbaijan, which intensified around this year’s Eurovision song contest in Baku. We also collected birthday cards and solidarity messages for another activist, Mehman Husyenov, who faces five years in prison on fabricated charges for speaking out during Eurovision.
Cuba: Hip Hop brother released
In April Antonio Michel Lima Cruz and Marcos Máiquel Lima Cruz were detained for listening to a Cuban hip hop group. On 24 October Antonio was released at the end of his sentence. But his brother has another eight months in prison and their parents continue to be harassed.
China: Chen Guangcheng safe in New York
In May Chinese human rights defender Chen Guangcheng, who is blind, escaped from house arrest and fled to the US Embassy in Beijing. We called on the Chinese authorities to honour their pledge to keep him safe.
Chen is now out of harm’s way, studying in New York with his wife and children. However, we have been keeping an eye on his friends and family members in China who have come under pressure from the authorities – including the recent arrest of his nephew, Chen Kegui.
Russia: Pussy Riot – One woman released, two in penal colonies
In July our action for Nadezhda, Maria and Ekaterina of feminist punk band Pussy Riot, who were being held for performing an anti-Putin protest gig in a church was to become our biggest SMS action so far. Over 10,000 Pocket Protestors signed our petition calling for their release which we handed in to Russian embassy in London the day before their court hearing on 17 August.
The two year sentences in a penal colony they received were unacceptable and disheartening, so we collected messages of solidarity for the women to show that we are still with them and will continue to press for justice and freedom. In reply, we received this message via their lawyer:
'The fact that the girls got two years and not three as the Prosecution asked or seven [maximum sentence in the Criminal Code article under which they have been tried] demonstrates that your work has brought results…
'Very warm regards and great big ‘THANK YOU!’ for all the support from Maria Alekhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Ekaterina Samutsevich. They said that this support encourages them and helps them to be strong in this difficult time.'
At their appeal hearing on 10 October, Ekaterina was released conditionally, however, jail sentences were upheld for Nadezhda and Maria and the two women have now been shipped to separate penal colonies. Pussy Riot are now a long-term case for us and we continue to call for their release and for all charges to be dropped. LINK TO PUSSY RIOT
Gambia: Execution spree stopped
In September Gambia suddenly executed nine death row inmates and the president’s vowed to execute all their other death row prisoners by the middle of the month. Once again, we were able to mobilise thousands of Pocket Protestors to send a message to the president to stop the upsurge in executions.
On 14 September President Jammeh announced a conditional moratorium. As far as we know, no other death row inmates have been executed since. Read our response to his announcement - LINK
Malala Yousufzai: Recovering in hospital
Recently voted Time’s woman of the year, Pakistan teenager Malala Yousufzai was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for girls education. She is now recovering in hospital in Birmingham. Read some of the heartfelt messages of support you texted in for this inspirational young woman. Read messages