Amnesty International at the Edinburgh Festival 2009

Amnesty International brings another packed programme to the Edinburgh Festival this year, underlining its long-term work with festival-goers to protect the right to freedom of expression around the world.

Building on the success of last year’s Edinburgh comedy shows and the massive Secret Policeman’s Ball from the Royal Albert Hall in 2008, Stand Up For Freedom returns to the Assembly Rooms at midnight on 12 and 19 August, featuring Simon Amstell, Andrew Maxwell, Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal from ‘Flight of the Conchords’, Phil Nicholl, Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Rob Rouse, Colin & Fergus and more top comedy names to be announced.

There’s a bigger-than-ever Amnesty presence at the Book Festival: on 27 August Freedom, a new book of short stories by renowned writers based on the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will launch with author readings from Marina Lewycka and Xiaolu Guo. This year’s Imprisoned Writers Series will once again feature well-known authors like Iain Banks and Ian Rankin, reading from the work of imprisoned writers, including those of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Amnesty Lecture this year will come from Emmanuel Jal, once a Sudanese Child Soldier and now an acclaimed rap artist.

The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award will be given to an outstanding Fringe play that carries a human rights message. Last year’s winner, Deep Cut, went on to be performed at the Tricycle Theatre in London and the 2007 winner, The Container, plays at the Young Vic in London from 15-30 July this year in association with Amnesty.

This year Amnesty reinforces its Freedom of Expression message at the Festival by campaigning for Dr Binayak Sen, an Indian doctor facing trial on trumped-up charges that Amnesty believes are a response to his activism, speaking out on behalf of the poor and marginalised. If convicted he could face a life term in jail. Amnesty is asking people to fill in one of its Action Cards or go to to send an appeal to the Indian authorities.

Activists will be out on Edinburgh’s streets this year with Amnesty’s Protect the Human placards, asking festival-goers to take their own stand for human rights by posing for a photo brandishing an Amnesty banner. All the photos will be displayed on Amnesty’s Flickr Stream.

Amnesty International Scotland Programme Director John Watson said:

“The Edinburgh Festival is a celebration of freedom of expression, so it’s the ideal place for Amnesty to tell people about our work to protect free speech around the world.

“We want people to join with us and take action for Dr Binayak Sen, who faces a lifetime behind bars in India just for speaking out on behalf of the poor and marginalised.

“Even small actions can make a difference. If festival-goers believe that free speech is important they can show their support just by posing with an Amnesty placard or signing their name on our appeal for Dr Binayak Sen.”

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