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IMPRISONED ACADEMIC’S LIFE IN DANGER

Imprisoned academic's life in danger

Maati Monjib
29
days left to take action

In a statement that Maati Monjib sent out of prison through his lawyers on 4 March, he stated three major drivers behind his hunger strike. He wrote: “I begin a hunger strike starting Thursday, March 4, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. to express a distress call to public opinion following the persecution and injustice inflicted on me by the Moroccan political regime. I observe this hunger strike to protest: 1) My arbitrary arrest on 29 December 2020, 24 hours before the hearing was held in the most secret in the 2015 trial for "undermining the security of the state". A hearing that I wasn't summoned to. My defense was not informed. This trial was postponed until my arrest and ended up convicting me in absentia."

In this statement, Maati Monjib also mentions the defamation against him in "official media and those affiliated to the security services" which infringe his dignity and the presumption of innocence. He continued, "I declare to the national and international public opinion that I am completely innocent of the spurious accusations which seek to undermine my credibility as a journalist and opinion writer. The reason for all this persecution can be found in my writings critical of the regime and its political police and in my human rights defense activities such as my support for the detainees of the Hirak el Rif movement and the journalists unfairly detained under the guise of common law crimes.”

In 2015, Maati Monjib went on hunger strike for 24 days when he was banned from travelling to Spain where he was scheduled to give a talk at a conference about Arab media in transition. His health deteriorated significantly during the hunger strike and he was hospitalized after losing consciousness. The authorities subsequently lifted the travel ban on 29 October 2015.

Maati Monjib and six other activists were investigated in 2015 under accusations of “threatening the internal security of the state” through “propaganda” that may threaten “the loyalty that citizens owe to the State and institutions of the Moroccan people” under Article 206 of the Penal Code. In the 2015 case against Maati Monjib and his six co-defendants, the police interrogation revolved around their receipt of foreign funds from the NGO Free Press Unlimited to conduct training sessions around the technique of StoryMaker, a secure storytelling app developed by Free Press Unlimited (FPU), the Guardian Project and Small World News, which enables citizen journalists to publish content anonymously if they wish to.

According to Maati Monjib, his trial sessions usually last four or five minutes before the judge adjourns and announces the next hearing date. It has been postponed 21 time since 2015. In a letter sent to Amnesty International, the government mentioned that the reasons for the new 2020 investigation is deriving from the annual reports of 2015 and 2016 of Free Press Unlimited, which suggests that this new investigation is linked to the old case of 2015 about the receipt of foreign funding from that NGO to conduct training workshops for citizen journalists. These charges are related to legitimate activities that are protected under the right to association.

Under international human rights law, the right to freedom of association includes NGOs’ capacity to engage in fundraising activities and to seek, receive and utilise resources from national, foreign and international sources. Restrictions on foreign funding that impede the ability of associations to pursue their statutory activities constitute an undue interference with Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Morocco is a party. 

Maati Monjib is a prominent academic and human rights defender. He is a regular commentator on Moroccan politics in international media, think tanks and academic forums where he often shared opinions and analysis about the Moroccan authorities' infringement of human rights.
 

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BRITISH-IRANIAN LABOUR ACTIVIST DETAINED

British-Iranian labour activist detained

Iran Map
5
days left to take action

 
The efforts of workers, trade unionists and labour rights activists in Iran to raise concerns about unpaid wages, precarious working conditions, staggering inflation and poor living standards have consistently led to crackdowns by the Iranian authorities. Despite undue restrictions on the right to freedom of association and a ban on independent trade unions in Iran, many workers and their allies continue to courageously form such unions and workers’ rights organizations. Their efforts have often led to dismissals without justification or being forced into early retirement, attacks and beatings by security forces policing workers’ protests, reprisals for organizing or participating in peaceful protests, arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and other ill-treatment, and long prison sentences on spurious national security charges. At least one labour rights activist, Arash Johari, who was arrested during the crackdown in October 2020, has since been sentenced to 16 years in prison in connection with his labour rights activism, leading to fears that others, including Mehran Raoof, could also face harsh prison sentences. 

Amnesty International has documented a pattern of systematic violations of the right to a fair trial in Iran, beginning from the time of arrest right up until when defendants stand trial. Individuals detained, investigated and prosecuted, especially those who are dual nationals or who are arrested on politically motivated charges, including human rights defenders, are subjected to grossly unfair judicial proceedings. Most are arrested without warrants and held in undisclosed locations without access to their families or lawyers. Prosecution authorities and interrogators belonging to security and intelligence bodies, including the Revolutionary Guards, systematically deny detainees their right to access a lawyer from the time of arrest, including even lawyers vetted and approved by the judiciary, and during the investigation phase of their case. Torture and other ill-treatment against individuals arrested in politically-motivated cases is widespread and systematic, especially during interrogations, and prison and prosecution authorities also deliberately deny prisoners of conscience and other prisoners held for politically motivated reasons access to adequate health care, including medication. Intelligence and security agents often hold detainees in poor and unsanitary conditions in prolonged solitary confinement, including in section 2A of Evin prison, which is under the control of the Revolutionary Guards, for up to 24 hours a day for weeks or months and only remove them from their cells for interrogations. Detainees in solitary confinement are held without any access to natural light and fresh air, often in filthy cells that are infested with insects. Such cells often lack adequate sanitary facilities and products for detainees to maintain personal hygiene, detainees sleep on the floor with typically one blanket and are given meagre rations of poor-quality food. Former detainees interviewed by Amnesty International have consistently said that detention in prolonged solitary confinement caused them immense psychological pain and suffering and was used to coerce them to make “confessions”. Under such circumstances, prolonged solitary confinement in and of itself amounts to torture. Forced "confessions" obtained under torture and other ill-treatment and without a lawyer present are consistently used as evidence by courts to issue convictions.

International human rights law prohibits the arbitrary deprivation of liberty. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that detention can be arbitrary even when allowed by domestic law if it contravenes international standards or is incompatible with other human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly. Detainees have a right to communicate with the outside world and to receive visits. Prolonged solitary confinement, that is solitary confinement imposed for periods beyond 15 days for 22 hours or more a day, violates the absolute prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment. Torture is an international crime and its use is prohibited under all circumstances. Statements elicited as a result of torture, ill-treatment or other forms of coercion must be excluded as evidence in criminal proceedings, except those brought against suspected perpetrators of such abuse. The right to a fair trial is legally binding on all states as part of customary international law. Those facing criminal proceedings must have the right to access legal counsel of their choosing from the time of arrest and throughout the pre-trial and trial proceedings; not to be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt; not to be detained on vague charges; to receive a fair, public hearing before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal; and to be provided with a public, reasoned judgement.
 

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PEACEFUL PROTESTER RELEASED AFTER 16 MONTHS

Peaceful protester released after 16 months

Konstantin Kotov
0
days left to take action

Urgent Action Outcome: Peaceful protester released after 16 months

Prisoner of conscience Konstantin Kotov, convicted for “violations of regulations of public assemblies” was released.

1st update on UA 82/20
Selfie of Nazanin and her husband and daughter with text "Nazanin faces second charge"

Nazanin should be reunited with her husband and daughter by now...

Nazanin’s sentence has ended and her ankle tag has been removed. However, she faces a second charge and had to go back to court in Iran on Sunday 14th March - Mother's Day. After a trial lasting 20 minutes, a verdict is due soon.

On the day that she should be flying home, armed with a petition signed by 160,000 of you, we went straight to the Iranian embassy to demand her immediate and unconditional release and reunion with her husband and daughter in the UK.

PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE DETAINED INCOMMUNICADO

Prisoner of conscience detained incommunicado

Ahmed Samir Santawy - © Private
0
days left to take action

Ahmed Samir Santawy is a researcher and student of anthropology at the Central European University (CEU) in Vienna, Austria. His research focuses on women's rights, including the history of reproductive rights in Egypt. Since Ahmed Samir Santawy started studying at CEU in September 2019, initially in Budapest, Hungary, Egyptian security officers have questioned him each time on arrival at and departure from the Cairo International Airport about the reasons for his trips abroad and the nature of his studies. He was questioned during his last entry into Egypt in mid-December 2020.

According to a complaint submitted by Ahmed Samir Santawy's family to the Public Prosecutor, and reviewed by Amnesty International, as well as information collected from other informed sources, on 23 January, seven masked and armed policemen raided Ahmed Samir Santawy's family home, when he was not there. They did not present an arrest or search warrant, confiscated a digital recorder from the house's CCTV cameras, and instructed for Ahmed Samir Santawy to present himself to the National Security Agency (NSA), without providing any reasons. When he went to the NSA office at a police station in New Cairo on 30 January, he was told to return on another day. He did as instructed on 1 February and was arrested. On 3 February, he was transferred to another police station in New Cairo. On 4 February, security forces moved him to an unknown detention location, where he was held before appearing at the SSSP offices on 6 February. Since he handed himself over on 1 February until his interrogation by the SSSP, authorities refused to reveal information about his exact fate and whereabouts to his family and lawyers.
The SSSP prosecutor questioned Ahmed Samir Santawy about his studies and academic background, including his research findings in relation to Islam and abortion. The prosecutor also explicitly asked him about what questions NSA officers directed at him during their interrogations. Ahmed Samir Santawy said that NSA officers questioned him about his studies as well as his alleged involvement in a Facebook page titled, "25 January Revolutionaries", critical of the authorities’ human rights record, which he denied. The prosecutor also asked him about a Facebook post regarding a detained journalist being subjected to beatings, but Ahmed Samir Santawy denied being the owner of the account. His lawyers’ request to refer him to the Forensic Medical Authority for examination of the injuries sustained during his detention by the NSA was not granted.

Authorities flouted the limited guarantees stipulated in Egyptian law, as well as their obligations under international law. Article 54 of the Egyptian Constitution states that: “Every person whose freedom is restricted shall be immediately notified of the reasons … shall be immediately enabled to contact his/her relatives and lawyer; and shall be brought before the investigation authority within 24 hours as of the time of restricting his/her freedom". Although article 40 of Law No.94/2015 on counter-terrorism allows the prosecution or another “investigative authority” to order the detention of suspects in terrorism cases for up to 14 days, renewable once, without being questioned by a prosecutor or judge, suspects have the right to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and to contact their families and lawyers (article 41). Further, the law stipulates for suspects to be held in official places of detention.

Under articles 9 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which Egypt is a state party, no one shall be arbitrarily detained; everyone arrested has the right to be informed of the reasons of their arrest and must be brought in front of a judge promptly and be allowed to challenge the legality of their detention. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that detention can be arbitrary even when allowed by domestic law if it contravenes international standards or is incompatible with other human rights such as the rights to freedom of expression, assembly or belief. The prohibition of torture and other ill-treatment is absolute under the ICCPR and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, to which Egypt is also a state party.

In the recent years, thousands of real or perceived political opponents have been arrested and kept in prolonged pre-trial detention by orders of the SSSP pending investigations into unfounded terrorism-related and other charges, sometimes for periods exceeding the absolute legal maximum limit of two years for pre-trial detention. Those targeted include human rights defenders, activists, lawyers, politicians, protesters, journalists, medical workers and academics. Proceedings against them are generally based on secret police investigations, inaccessible to defendants and their lawyers, and sometimes supported by social media posts deemed to be critical of the authorities. In February 2020, security forces arrested Patrick Zaki George, a gender researcher and master's student in Bologna, Italy, upon his arrival to Cairo International Airport. He remains detained pending investigations by the SSSP over similar terrorism-related charges.
 

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TORTURED AHWAZI ARABS AT RISK OF EXECUTION

Tortured Ahwazi Arabs at risk of execution

Iran prison
0
days left to take action

In their October 2020 response to a communication from the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concerning the situation of Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian, the Iranian government claimed that “the allegation of torture and abuse … is totally devoid of any standing” because torture is prohibited under Iranian law and the authorities “carry out the necessary inspections and oversight programs and deal with any violation or irregularity in a lawful manner.” Beyond this blanket denial, the government did not indicate whether an investigation had been carried out into the allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Hossein Silawi and Ali Khasraji have said that the torture they sustained at the hands of ministry of intelligence agents while held in prolonged solitary confinement resulted in their ribs being broken. Ali Khasraji has said that he sustained injuries in one of his hands and subsequently required a surgical implant to support the healing of his broken bones. Amnesty International understands that for several months, the authorities refused to transfer him to a hospital outside prison for medical treatment, despite his hand being severely swollen and painful, and his transfer took place only after he attempted suicide in protest. In their response to the OHCHR, the Iranian government also denied that the men had been subjected to enforced disappearance. The government stated that “they are held in a very specific location directly overseen by the State Prisons …Organization, which refutes the allegation of enforced disappearance.” The government did not provide any additional information about the whereabouts of this “very specific location”. According to local Ahwazi Arab activists, Hossein Silawi and Ali Khasraji were most likely detained in a ministry of intelligence detention centre in Ahvaz between April 2020 and November 2020 when they were returned to Sheiban prison. 

The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation (IRIB) broadcast the forced “confessions” of Hossein Silawi, Ali Khasraji and Naser Khafajian shortly after their arrest in May 2017, in breach of the presumption of innocence. In the propaganda programme, the men’s faces are blurred, and they are introduced as “Hossein S.”, “Ali Kh.” and “Naser S.” Local human rights activists have told Amnesty International that Naser Khafajian was introduced with the wrong initial. Hossein Silawi is shown giving his forced “confessions” while lying on a hospital bed, which exacerbates concerns around the coercive circumstances in which his “confessions” were extracted and filmed.
Mohammad Ali Amouri, Jaber Alboshokeh and Mokhtar Alboshokeh are sentenced to life imprisonment solely because of their peaceful work with a now-disbanded cultural rights group called Al-Hiwar (meaning “Dialogue” in Arabic). For months now, Jaber Alboshokeh has suffered from a dental infection and Mokhtar Alboshokeh from a jawbone infection, but the authorities have denied them access to a dentist. Jaber Alboshokeh is being held in the same ward as prisoners convicted of violent crimes, posing a risk to his safety and well-being. Mokhtar Alboshkeh and Jaber Alboshokeh have said that in recent months, prison officials have subjected them to beatings with batons multiple times when they have spoken out against their cruel and inhumane prison conditions. 

In view of the irreversible nature of the death penalty, the proceedings in capital cases must scrupulously observe all relevant international standards protecting the right to a fair trial. Defendants must benefit from the services of competent defence counsel from the time of arrest and throughout the pre-trial, trial and appeal proceedings. They must be presumed innocent until their guilt has been proved based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts. Statements elicited as a result of torture or other ill-treatment must be excluded as evidence. The proceedings must guarantee the right to review of both the factual and the legal aspects of the case by a higher tribunal. The effective exercise of this right requires that individuals are provided with a public, reasoned judgement. The right to seek pardon must also be ensured. Under international law, the imposition of the death penalty following an unfair trial constitutes an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life. 

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception. The death penalty is a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Iran’s Ahwazi Arab minority face entrenched discrimination curtailing equal access to education, employment, adequate housing and political office. Continued under-investment in Khuzestan province by the central government has exacerbated poverty and marginalization. Despite repeated calls for linguistic diversity, Persian remains the sole language of instruction in primary and secondary education in the province. 

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PRISONER OF CONSCIENCE’S HEALTH AT RISK

Prisoner of conscience's health at risk

Evin Prison
0
days left to take action

Hamed Gharehoghlani was arrested by ministry of intelligence agents in Urumieh, West Azerbaijan province, on 27 June 2020. He was taken to the detention centre of the ministry of intelligence in Urumieh, where he was held in solitary confinement for two weeks, without access to his family and a lawyer, and then transferred to the central prison in Urumieh. According to an informed source, while held in solitary confinement, he was subjected to various forms of psychological torture aimed at obtaining forced “confessions” including persistent use of degrading verbal insults and profanities, threats of execution, and threats to kill his mother, particularly if his case is publicized. He was also denied access to his medication and deprived of fresh air and natural light. The ministry of intelligence agents summoned his mother and sister for interrogations several hours after his arrest, threatened to have his mother dismissed from her teaching position, forced them to sign statements undertaking not to “insult” the Supreme Leader and “Islamic sanctities” and warned them against speaking to anyone about their relative’s detention. Ministry of intelligence agents repeatedly accused his family of being in contact with the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI) and mentioned, while yelling and hurling insults at the family, that they have two relatives abroad who support the PMOI. His family persistently denied supporting the PMOI or being in contact with their relatives. 

Hamed Gharehoghlani’s trial before Branch 2 of the Revolutionary Court in Urumieh was grossly unfair. The trial consisted of one session, which took place behind closed doors on 28 September 2020 and lasted only 10 minutes. The judge presiding over the session showed hostility and a lack of impartiality by repeatedly interrupting Hamed Gharehoghlani, openly supporting the accusations of the intelligence agents against him and calling him a “terrorist”. Hamed Gharehoghlani was only allowed to meet with his lawyer once in prison several weeks before his trial in the presence of prison and intelligence officials. The authorities have refused to provide him with a written copy of the verdict. On 29 November 2020, they only gave him a few minutes to take a glance at the verdict and then asked him to sign a statement to confirm that he had been notified of his conviction and sentence. 

In early September 2020, Hamed Gharehoghlani suffered from suspected COVID-19 symptoms, including severe dry coughs, fever, and shortness of breath. Despite being at higher risk of serious health problems or death due to his pre-existing health problems, prison officials did not conduct a diagnostic test; instead, they gave him some unidentified medication at the prison clinic and returned him to his usual overcrowded place of confinement.  

The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, to which Iran is a party, recognizes the right of every person to the highest attainable standard of health. The UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Mandela Rules) state that prisons must provide adequate medical care to prisoners without discrimination and free of charge. The Mandela Rules provide that “Prisoners who require specialized treatment or surgery shall be transferred to specialized institutions or to civil hospitals” and clinical decisions should only be taken by health-care professionals and not be overruled or ignored by non-medical prison staff. Amnesty International has documented numerous cases where the Iranian authorities have deliberately denied health care to prisoners of conscience, putting their lives and health at grave risk. In some cases, Amnesty International has considered that the abusive conduct reached the threshold of torture as it inflicted severe pain and suffering on the victims for the purposes of punishing, intimidating or humiliating them or obtaining forced “confessions” from them.

The right to freedom of opinion and expression includes the right to be critical of the political social system espoused by the authorities and the right to peacefully advocate, individually or in association with others, for any political ideas or visions so long as the ideas espoused do not advocate hatred constituting incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence. Penalizing individuals because of the mere fact that their expressions are considered to be insulting to a public figure is a serious violation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, protected under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Iran is a state party. 

The Iranian authorities have a history of targeting family members of those who have real or perceived ties with the PMOI. During the 1980s and 1990s, the PMOI engaged in armed activities against the Islamic Republic from its base in Iraq. The organization was eventually disarmed by the US following the 2003 invasion of Iraq and from 2008 onwards, the European Union and other governments have lifted the designation of the PMOI as a “terrorist “organization on the grounds that the PMOI no longer advocates or engages in armed opposition to the government of Iran.   
 

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JOURNALIST COMPLAINS OF ABUSE IN PRISON

Journalist complains of abuse in prison

Child behind bars
0
days left to take action

Solafa Magdy, Hossam el-Sayed and Mohamed Salah are freelance journalists working for different media outlets. The three are under investigations by the Supreme State Security Prosecution (SSSP), a special branch of the Public Prosecution responsible for prosecuting crimes that relate to “state security”, as part of case No. 488 of 2019, which is connected to the March 2019 anti-government protests. Solafa Magdy and Hossam el-Sayed are facing trumped-up charges of “joining a terrorist group” and “spreading false news”, while Hossam el-Sayed is accused of “membership in a terrorist group”.

On 30 August 2020, Solafa Magdy was brought in front of the SSSP for questioning in connection to a new case (No. 855/2020). She was accused of “joining a terrorist group”, “spreading and broadcasting false rumours” and “misuse of social media”. When asked about the charges, Solafa Magdy exercised her right to remain silent. In response to the prosecutor’s question on the reason for her silence, she noted that she saw no difference between this investigation and her initial investigation over similar accusations in relation to case (No.488/2019). Case No. 855/2020 also includes other prisoners of conscience, already held in pre-trial detention in relation to separate investigations into similar unfounded “terrorism”-related charges, such as human rights defender Mahienour el-Masry, journalist Esraa Abdelfattah and human rights lawyer Mohamed el-Baqer. According to information gathered by Amnesty International, prosecutors based their accusations against Solafa Magdy and the other prisoners of conscience mainly on National Security Agency (NSA) investigations case files, which defendants and their lawyers were not allowed to examine. In recent months, the SSSP has been increasingly bypassing court or prosecution decisions to release detainees held in prolonged pre-trial detention by issuing new detention orders covering similar charges. 

Solafa Magdy has previously faced discriminatory treatment in al-Qanater Prison for women. Prison authorities have prevented Solafa Magdy’s mother from sending her money, food and sanitizers from 12 April until 29 April 2020, when prison visits were suspended owing to COVID-19 restrictions.  Other prisoners were allowed to receive packages from their relatives during this period. Further, unlike most other inmates in al-Qanater Prison, Solafa Magdy was also unable to send or receive letters during the suspension of prison visits, effectively rendering her detention incommunicado.

On 1 February 2021, the Ministry of Interior published a statement denying allegations that Solafa Magdy has been subjected to ill-treatment and is in poor health and blaming the Muslim Brotherhood of spreading false information. Her lawyers’ request to refer her to forensics to examine her injuries has not been granted.

Since President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi came to power, the authorities have cracked down on independent reporting and arbitrarily blocked hundreds of websites, raided and/or closed the offices of at least nine media outlets and arbitrarily detained scores of journalists. The arrests of Solafa Magdy, Hossam el-Sayed and Mohamed Salah came in the context of the post-September 2019 protest crackdown, the largest on dissenting voices since 2014. Amnesty International has documented how Egyptian security forces carried-out sweeping arrests of peaceful protesters, journalists, human rights lawyers, activists and political figures in a bid to silence critics and deter further protests. 

Torture and other ill-treatment are prohibited under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Egypt is a state party. Intentional acts by state agents that inflict “severe pain or suffering”, whether physical or mental, for such purposes as punishment, coercion or intimidation, obtaining a “confession”, or for any reason based on discrimination constitute torture.
 

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AILING PROFESSOR ARRESTED AFTER CANCELLATION OF BAIL

Ailing professor arrested after cancellation of bail

Regional map of Pakistan © Amnesty International
0
days left to take action

Professor Muhammad Ismail is a retired professor of Urdu language and lives with his wife in Islamabad.
His daughter, Gulalai Ismail, is a well-known human rights defender, recognized for her women’s rights advocacy. She is the 2017 winner of Anna Politkovskaya award and the chair of Aware Girls. Gulalai is also an outspoken supporter of Pakistan’s Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement, a peaceful movement that campaigns against extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances and other human rights violations suffered by Pakistan’s Pashtun population.

Gulalai Ismail was charged with “sedition”, “terrorism” and “defamation” for a speech made at a protest on 22 May 2019 after which she was forced into hiding on 23 May 2019. As a result, her family home was raided multiple times, and men in plain clothes from the country’s security agencies confiscated their devices. The threats and intimidation tactics intensified after Gulalai applied for political asylum in the USA. Professor Muhammad Ismail had a First Investigative Report (FIR) registered against him, along with his wife and daughter, on 12 July 2019, accusing them of taking funding from “foreign countries”, aiding “terrorist organizations” and working for them under the guise of their social work. 

While on bail before arrest in this case, Professor Ismail petitioned the Peshawar High Court to quash this charge. On 24 October 2019, when he was due to appear for the hearing of this petition, that he was abducted by unidentified men outside the court. His family was only informed of his whereabouts later that night by local civil society activists that he was in custody of the Cyber Crime Wing of the Federal Investigation Agency in Peshawar. The official confirmation of his arrest only came on 25 October 2019, when he was produced at a special court of Peshawar and charged with hate speech and spreading “fake information” against the government’s institutions under the draconian Pakistan’s Electronic Crimes Act for statuses he has uploaded on his personal social media pages.

He was released on conditional bail on 25 November 2019 by the Peshawar High Court, after having spent one month in pre-trial detention. He paid two surety bonds of Rs 100,000 (USD 625) each and also provided financial guarantees from two people. The trumped-up charges were never dropped.

Since then, the Ismail family has remained under constant and invasive surveillance, and have been targeted under anti-terrorism laws, the Criminal Penal Code and cyber-security legislation. On 2 July 2020, the Peshawar Anti-Terrorism Court acquitted Gulalai, Professor Ismail and his wife Uzlifat of “financial terrorism” charges. But just three months later, on 30 September 2020, they were charged with sedition and terrorism by the same court – which carry lengthy prison sentences. 

His family had secured pre-arrest bail for him, which was cancelled at the confirmation hearing on 2 February 2021 after which Professor Ismail was promptly taken into police custody. Uzlifat Ismail’s bail was accepted. On 3 February 2021, the anti-terrorism court sent Professor Ismail on a three-day physical remand. The family will only be able to move the courts to grant him bail after he is moved to the jail and if the remand is not extended. In the meantime, Professor Ismail is being kept at the police station, where it is unclear if appropriate COVID-19 precautions are being taken.

Freedom of expression, assembly and association have come under attack in Pakistan in recent years. Human rights defenders and journalists face restrictions in both online and offline spaces. The clampdown on civic space has intensified, through draconian laws that enable violations of human rights.
 

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