Egypt: blogger faces new prison sentence for insulting the judiciary

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PEN International is deeply concerned that blogger and activist Alaa Abd El Fattah could be subjected to a new prison sentence at his next hearing on 30 December 2017 under the charge of insulting the judiciary. On 8 November 2017, Egypts highest court of appeal upheld the five-year prison sentence handed down to Abd El Fattah in February 2015 for taking part in peaceful demonstrations in Egypt, following the January 2011 uprising. PEN International believes Abd El Fattah is imprisoned for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression and assembly, and continues to call upon the Egyptian authorities to immediately drop all charges and release him.
The new charge of insulting the judiciary is related to a tweet Abd El Fattah posted in 2013 criticizing the judiciary as biased and implying that judges are taking orders from the military. He is one of 24 defendants being tried under this charge. PEN believes that the charges are purely attempt to silence criticism and opposition to the Egyptian regime, in violation of the right to freedom of expression.
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If you have a Twitter account, please consider tweeting your support with the hashtag #FreeAlaa

Send letters of appeal to the Egyptian authorities:

·       Raising concern about the continued imprisonment of Alaa Abd El Fattah;

·       Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of Abd El Fattah, and all others held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and assembly, in accordance with Egypts obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

·       Requesting that the rights of Abd El Fattah and all other detainees are respected, in accordance with international human rights standards.
Appeals to:
Abdel Fattah al-Sisi,
Office of the President,
Al Ittihadia Palace,
Cairo, Arab Republic of Egypt,
Fax: +202 2 391 1441
Email: p.spokesman [at] [dot] eg
Moh_moussa [at] [dot] eg
Salutation: Your Excellency
Twitter: @AlsisiOfficial

Minister of Justice
Mohamed Hossam Abdel Rahim
Ministry of Justice,
Lazoghly Sq.,
Fax: +202 2 795 8103
Email: mjustice [at] [dot] eg
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please send your letters via the Embassy of the Egypt in your country. Addresses could be found here.

Please inform PEN of any action you take, and of any responses you receive

Read and share Alaas work
Read Alaas extraordinary piece for the Guardian, written from Cairos Tora Prison in January 2016.


Alaa Abd El Fattah was one of the very first bloggers in Arabic and was the first to aggregate blogs coming out of Egypt. He has always worked for freedom of expression whether in his writing or in his work designing open-source digital software. His popular blog – established with his wife, Manal, helped spark a community of bloggers in the Arab World committed to the promotion of free speech and human rights.

Following his arrest in June 2014, Abd El Fattah staged a partial hunger strike in prison, drinking only juice and other fluids. He was released on bail in 2014 having spent 115 days in prison. He was re-arrested at the resumption of his trial in October 2014 and sentenced four months later to five years in prison. According to reports, Abdel Fattah also spent 45 days in detention in 2006 for protesting in support of judges calling for the independence of the judiciary under President Hosni Mubaraks rule. Abd El Fattah is currently in Al-Mazraa prison in the Tora prison in Cairo. The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, in its opinion delivered in June 2016, found that he was arbitrarily detained as a result of the exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and his participation in a peaceful demonstration on 26 November 2013. For more information on this case, see our previous action here.

PEN Centres have been actively campaigning on behalf of Abd El Fattah. Abd El Fattah is an Honorary Member of Austrian PEN. English PEN highlighted his case in April 2017 at the English PEN Modern Literature Festival where poet Mischa Foster Poole performed a new piece in his honour.

For further information, please contact Nael Georges, PEN International, Koops Mill Mews, 162-164 Abbey Street, London, SE1 2AN, UK, Tel.: +44 (0) 20 7405 0338, Email: nael.georges [at] pen-international [dot] org<mailto:nael.georges [at] pen-international [dot] org>

ISRAEL: Palestinian journalist released following hunger strike

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Update #1 to RAN 03/16
Muhammad al-Qiq]PEN International welcomes the release, on 8 November 2017, of prominent Palestinian journalist Muhammed al-Qiq. He had been detained by Israeli authorities almost one year under administrative detention following his arrest on 15 January 2017 at an Israeli checkpoint. During his detention, al-Qiq went on many hunger strikes in protest at his conditions of detention and to negotiate his release.
PEN International reiterates its call upon the Israeli authorities to end the practice of administrative detention with immediate effect, including of journalists and other writers.

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Please send appeals to the Israeli authorities:

Ø  Welcoming the release of Muhammed al-Qiq

Ø  Calling for the release all journalists and other writers held under administrative detention if they are not to be charged with an internationally recognisable criminal offence and tried in proceedings adhering to international standards;

Ø  Requesting an end to the use of administrative detention orders as they violate the right to a fair and prompt trial.

Appeals to:

•       Military Judge Advocate General
Brigadier General Sharon Afek
Hakirya, Tel Aviv, Israel
Fax: +972 3 569 4526
Email: Mag [at] [dot] il
Salutation: Dear Judge Advocate General

•       Commander of the IDF – West Bank
Major-General Roni Numa
GOC Central Command
Military Post 01149, Battalion 877
Israel Defense Forces, Israel
Fax: +972 2 530 5741, +972 2 530 5724
Salutation: Dear Major-General Roni Numa

•       Minister of Public Security
Gilad Erdan
Kiryat Hamemshala
PO Box 18182
Jerusalem 91181, Israel
Fax: +972 2 584 7872
Email: gerdan [at] [dot] il
Salutation: Dear Minister

Please copy your appeals to the Embassy of Israel in your country. A list of embassies can be found here.

Please send us copies of your letters or information about other activities and of any responses received.


PEN members are encouraged to publish articles and opinion pieces in your national or local press highlighting the use of administrative detention by Israel to detain journalists.

Muhammed al-Qiq, from Ramallah in the West Bank, has been detained repeatedly as part of the Israeli government’s practice of administrative detention – a form of detention without charge or trial imposed for periods of up to six months, renewable an infinite number of times – and has undertaken several hunger strikes in response. The journalist was first arrested in November 2015, resulting in him embarking upon his first hunger strike which led to the deterioration of his health. On 4 February 2016, Israel’s Supreme Court “suspended” the administrative detention of al-Qiq, noting the severe deterioration of his health (For more information, please see RAN 03/16). After his release, al-Qiq was hospitalized in order to monitor his health condition. On 15 January 2017, al-Qiq was re-arrested at an Israeli checkpoint; as a consequence, he undertook two other hunger strikes before his release on 8 November 2017.
PEN International has been campaigning for al-Qiq, as well as for the release of all Palestinian writers and journalists who are unfairly imprisoned in Israel, in violation of their right to freedom of expression and opinion. To read our previous statement related to this case, click here.

Saudi Arabia: Raif Badawi spends his 2000th day behind bars

Raif Badawi (Foto: PEN International)

PEN International condemns the ongoing arbitrary detention of blogger Raif Badawi, currently serving a 10-year sentence in Saudi Arabia. PEN is also deeply concerned that the Saudi government will continue the lashing punishment against Badawi, who received his first 50 of 1,000 lashes on 9 January, 2015. After his first flogging, Badawi’s remaining 950 lashes were postponed indefinitely on medical grounds.
PEN International calls on the Saudi Arabian authorities to abandon any intention to carry out the remainder of his 1,000-lash sentence as it violates its obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to which Saudi Arabia has been a state party since September 1997.
PEN International continues to call for Badawi’s conviction to be overturned and for him to be released immediately and unconditionally. PEN also reiterates its call for the release of Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abu al-Khair, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence in connection with his peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.
“The impact of Raef’s detention and flogging has been devastating for our family, as Raef has been in prison for five years. It is difficult and hard for my children, for me but especially for Raif himself. I would like to thank PEN members for your ongoing support, and we hope that you will continue your efforts until Raif is released. I am hopeful for the future, for changes we see happening in Saudi; I have faith that freedom is coming. I ask King Mohammed Bin Salman to please issue an order to liberate my husband. Please intervene in my husband’s case and allow my family to be together again” – Ensaf Haidar, wife of Raif Badawi.

For extracts of Raif Badawi’s writings in English and Arabic click here.

Take Action: Share on FaceBook, Twitter and other social media

Please send appeals:

§  Calling on the Saudi Arabian authorities to halt immediately any plans to carry out Raif Badawi’s sentence of flogging.
§  Urging the Saudi Arabian authorities to release Raif Badawi and his lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair immediately and unconditionally as they are being held solely for their peaceful exercise of their rights to freedom of expression;
§   Urging them to ensure the full respect of its obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
§  Calling on Saudi Arabia to ratify, without reservation, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Appeals to:

King and Prime Minister
His Majesty King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud
The Custodian of the two Holy Mosques Office of His Majesty
the King Royal Court, Riyadh Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: (via Ministry of Interior) +966 11 403 3125
Twitter: @KingSalman
Salutation: Your Majesty

Minister of Interior
His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Aziz bin Saud bin Naif
Ministry of the Interior,
P.O. Box 2933, Airport Road, Riyadh 11134
Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Fax: +966 11 403 3125, Twitter: @MOISaudiArabia Salutation: Your Highness

Please copy appeals to the diplomatic representative for Saudi Arabia in your country if possible.

***Please send appeals immediately. Check with PEN International if sending appeals after 19 November 2016. Please send us copies of any appeals you send and of any responses you receive***


Raif Badawi was arrested on 17 June 2012 in Jeddah after organising a conference to mark a ‘day of liberalism’. The conference, which was to have taken place in Jeddah on 7 May 2012, was banned by the authorities. On 29 July 2013, a court in Jeddah sentenced Badawi to seven years and three months in prison and 600 lashes after he was convicted under the information technology law of “founding a liberal website,” “adopting liberal thought” and for “insulting Islam”. The online forum, Liberal Saudi Network – created to foster political and social debate in Saudi Arabia – was ordered closed by the judge.

According to reports, the appeal, submitted by Badawi’s lawyer, Walid Abu al-Khair, cited procedural and evidential reasons why the conviction should be overturned and Badawi should be freed. In December 2013, it was reported that the Court of Appeal had reversed the ruling of the District Court in Jeddah, ordering that Badawi’s case be sent for review by another court. Badawi, who suffers from diabetes, is reported to be in poor health.

On 7 May 2014, Jeddah’s Criminal Court sentenced Badawi to 10 years in prison, 1,000 lashes and a fine of 1 million Saudi riyals (approx. US$266,631) on charges of ‘insulting Islam’ and ‘founding a liberal website.’ According to PEN’s information, when Badawi appeared in court to collect a written account of the verdict on 28 May 2014 he discovered the insertion of two additional penalties: a 10-year travel ban and 10-year ban from participating in visual, electronic and written media, both to be applied following his release. For more information about his case, please read PEN’s interview with his wife Ensaf Haidar here.

According to the Centre For Inquiry (CFI), in an article dated 17 September 2014, the Saudi appeals court in Mecca confirmed the sentence against Badawi, and ordered that the lashes should be administered 50 at the time, in public, every week after Friday Prayers. The first 50 lashes were given outside al-Jafali mosque in the port city of Jeddah on 9 January 2015. The following week, the authorities postponed further flogging sessions on medical grounds after a doctor said wounds from the previous lashing had not healed. On 16 January 2015, his wife Ensaf Haider, who lives in Canada with the couple’s three young children, said that King Abdullah had referred the case to the Supreme Court.

On 18 October 2016, The Raif Badawi Foundation released a statement in which they confirmed that they had received information that Raif Badawi’s flogging sentence was to continue. In contrast to the first round of punishment, which was performed in a public place, the next lashing was reportedly due to be carried out inside prison.

China: writer and PEN member dies while on medical parole

PEN international mourns the death of dissident writer and PEN member Yang Tongyan, who succumbed to a brain tumour on 7 November 2017, just three months after he was released on medical parole in August 2017.

“We mourn Yang Tongyan. We find ourselves in despair faced with another life destroyed by injustice in China. A dear writer, a committed citizen, a man of vision and hope has been crushed by a system where repression is the rule. For the second time this year, after the death of Liu Xiaobo, we see a prisoner liberated on parole just for him to face death out of prison. Such a cruel practice reveals to what extend injustice commands the whole judicial system. The Chinese Communist Party must know that we will never forget these dear PEN colleagues and will never stop our peaceful struggle to restore freedom of expression in China one day.” Said Carles Torner, Executive Director of PEN International

At the time of his death, Yang was receiving treatment in a Shanghai hospital. He had undergone an operation to remove a tumour on 23 August 2017. His family had only learnt of his diagnosis on 12 August.

President of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre, Tienchi Martin Lao stated: “‘In the beginning, there was the word.’ This was what our dear colleague Yang Tongyan believed. He spent 22 years of his life in prison, and finally he paid with his life to prove the truth of this sentence. We mourn for him. His words and his thoughts are free and will always illuminate our way in darkness.”

Yang – who also wrote under the pen name Yang Tianshui – was a dissident writer and member of the Independent Chinese PEN Centre (ICPC). Arrested in December 2005, he had been serving a 12-year sentence for ‘subversion’ in connection with his writings. He was due to be released later this year on completion of his sentence.

“With grief I received the news about our loss of Yang Tongyan, one of the leading personalities in the fight for the democratization of the Peoples Republic of China. Few if any worked harder and more consistently than he for so many years for a peaceful transformation of his society and the respect for the individuals´ right to free speech. We in PEN owe him our greatest admiration, and he will remain in our memories and heart for what he gave his life to.” Said PEN International Vice President Eugene Schoulgin.

Yang was known for his critical writings published on dissident news websites such as and Epoch Times. He spent a decade in prison from 1990 to 2000 on ‘counter-revolution’ charges for his involvement in the 1989 pro-democracy protests. He is an honorary member of PEN Canada, Italian PEN and PEN America. In 2008 he was awarded the PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award.

His death follows that of fellow ICPC member and Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo in July 2017, shortly after his release on medical parole.

Jordan: On-going block on access to LGBTQI digital magazine

Available in Arabic
2 November 2017 – PEN International strongly condemns the blocking the digital magazine, My.Kali, which promotes LGBTQI rights in Jordan, mainly by raising awareness about their circumstances and the violations to which they are subjected in the Arab region. PEN calls on the Jordanian government to unblock My.Kali and to fully respect the right to freedom of expression, as enshrined in article 15 of the Jordanian Constitution and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Jordan is a state party.

Access to the online magazine was blocked in July 2017 by the Jordanian Audio-visual Commission, on the basis that it lacks a government publication license and its “incitement of sensationalist media”. It is thought that the Commission acted under pressure from a representative of the conservative Islamic Action Front party, which is publicly opposed LGBTQI rights in Jordan.
“Blocking the LGBTQI online magazine, as well as well as hundreds of other websites in Jordan is a violation of the right to freedom of expression. The LGBTQI community should have the right to impart information and ideas of all kinds through their own magazines. Jordan’s ban of My.Kali is an expression of repressive practices that ultimately lead to further repression, fear and violence in its society. A healthy society should be based on democracy, freedom of expression and other personal freedoms. LGBTQI people should be allowed to express their sexuality and views,” said Iman Humaydan PEN International’s Board member.

According to its website, My.Kali is the first LGBTQI inclusive web magazine in the Middle East and North Africa region. Established in Jordan in 2007 by a group of students from different backgrounds, it strives to address homophobia and transphobia and empower young people to defy mainstream gender binaries in the Arab world, through the publication of contributions of writers, photographers, bloggers and artists from all identities in the region.

In recent years, the Jordanian government has taken measures, which have led to greater restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and opinion.  According to an amendment to the 1998 Press and Publications Law approved in 2012, all new sites require a license from the government to operate; the Commission has applied this law to block access to My.Kali. Furthermore, the amendment provides the Jordanian government with the tools by which to censor the press, media and online spaces.

In its 2016 resolution on anti-LGBTQI legislation, PEN International denounced the adoption of laws that ban the dissemination of information about sexual orientation and gender identity. It also demanded that the governments of all states confirm their commitment to respect and protect the rights of all, including LBGTQI people, in accordance with their obligations under international human rights law to freedom of expression, association, and peaceful assembly.

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