Celebrities back Amnesty campaign to get prisoners of conscience home this winter
Some of the UK’s best loved faces today called on the public to get behind a new Amnesty International campaign to free prisoners of conscience across the globe this winter.
The Help Get Them Home campaign highlights the plight of prisoners held behind bars and often tortured simply because they have spoken out against the authorities in their countries. With the support of celebrities and the public, Amnesty hopes to get those who are unjustly imprisoned back with their families.
Actors Vanessa Redgrave and Olivia Colman, comedian Ed Byrne and TV presenter Bear Grylls are calling on the UK public to send a text message to sign a petition demanding the release of prisoners of conscience in India, Iran and Indonesia.
'It is ridiculous in this day and age that people can be jailed simply for speaking out. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right. I would urge everyone to back Amnesty’s campaign. This is a real chance to make a real difference.'
Olivia Colman, The BAFTA-award winning actress
'My job has taught me the value of coming home to my family. But thousands of people around the world don't get to make it home. They could be journalists, activists or lawyers who get on the wrong side of the powers that be and end up behind bars simply because they speak out against the authorities - a freedom we take for granted. They are ordinary people, people like you and me, and we should work together to get them out of jail and back to their families where they belong.'
Bear Grylls, British adventurer, writer and television presenter
'I am proud to have a long association with Amnesty. People should be free to express themselves and to hold governments and other powerful bodies to account without fear of arrest. But thousands of people all over the world are not with their families today because they've been locked up simply for speaking out against the authorities in their countries.
'In comedy it is taken for granted that you can speak your mind and that’s why I am backing this campaign. It is one quick text, but it could make a world of difference.'
Ed Byrne, Leading comedian
'It makes a real difference to people all over the world who are in prison and tortured simply for exercising their rights to free speech or expression to know that they haven’t been forgotten and that there is a global community demanding their release and standing up against repression. Please do get involved with this campaign.'
Kate Allen, Amnesty UK director
The celebrities have been photographed holding a hashtag to encourage the public to take action and share the stories of:
Soni Sori, 37, an Indian schoolteacher and mother of three. Soni is also a peaceful indigenous rights activist who works to protect her community. In 2011 she was jailed, without a trial, on false charges of aiding Maoist groups. Amnesty believes she was arrested because she criticised the government for human rights violations. While in jail she has been tortured with electric shocks and violently sexually assaulted by police.
Johan Teterissa, 51, an Indonesian primary school teacher. Johan is serving 15 years for leading a peaceful protest in front of the Indonesian president. All of his fellow protesters were arrested, kicked and beaten with riffle buts. In prison they have been beaten and whipped with electric cables and had snooker balls forced into their mouths. Johan has been denied adequate medical treatment for the injuries he sustained from torture.
Hossein Ronaghi Maleki, 28, an Iranian blogger. Johan is serving 15 years in Iran’s brutal Evin Prison for peacefully protesting against the country’s hard-line regime and its disputed elections. Right now, Hossein is being denied vital medical treatment for his severe kidney, intestine, bladder and heart problems - the result of sustained torture and beatings. Hossein’s mother will do anything to stay close to her son, even joining him in a hunger strike, saying, “If Hossein is to die, I prefer to die too”.
Help Get Them Home, devised with advertising agency Leo Burnett, will also see an advertisement campaign on the London Underground, in overground trains, through social media and in national newspapers, which tells the stories of these activists and encourages the public to take action. More cases will be added to the campaign as it gathers momentum.
The public can get involved at www.helpgetthemhome.com