Vietnamese Court Upholds Dissidents’ Jail Sentences

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese appeals court upheld the sentences of four dissidents who were sentenced in 2007 for “spreading distorted information to undermine the state.” Judge Nguyen Xuan Phat of the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ho Chi Minh City refused to reduce the sentences of Tran Thi Le Hong, Phung Quang Quyen, Doan Van Dien, and his son Doan Huy Chuong. According to Ho Thi Thuong, wife of Doan Vien Dien and mother of Doan Huy Chuong, the court refused because in giving interviews with Radio Free Asia, the four committing very serious crimes because they had defamed the government and many people had listened. The four have jail terms ranging from 18 months to 4 ½ years.

The Vietnamese government accused the four of collecting complaints of land-rights violations and giving the information to Radio Free Asia and other news organizations. The four are also accused of distributing anti-government leaflets prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The four are affiliated with the United Workers-Farmers Organization [UWFO]. UWFO campaigns for the right to form independent labor unions and defends farmers whose land has been confiscated

Vietnam news organizations have reported that the four have deliberated tried to sabotage Vietnam with lies. According the Vietnam news organizations, the four men have collected information regarding land-rights in the country and changed their contents before distributing them and uploaded the information on anti-Vietnam websites. Doan Van Dien is also accused of asking his son Doan Huy Chuong to give phone interviews to Radio Free Asia and Hoa Mai Club Radio disguised as a worker taking part in the labor strikes. Vietnam news organizations allege that Doan Huy Chuong distorted facts and falsely accused the state of repressing workers and arresting demonstrators.

For more information, please see:

Earthtimes – Vietnamese Dissidents’ Sentences Upheld – 26 February 2008

Radio Free Asia – Vietnam Upholds Dissident Jail Terms – 27 February 2008

VietNamNet – Court Reject Saboteurs’ Appeal of Sentence Cut – 26 February 2008

Vietnamese Court Upholds Dissidents’ Jail Sentences

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese appeals court upheld the sentences of four dissidents who were sentenced in 2007 for “spreading distorted information to undermine the state.” Judge Nguyen Xuan Phat of the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ho Chi Minh City refused to reduce the sentences of Tran Thi Le Hong, Phung Quang Quyen, Doan Van Dien, and his son Doan Huy Chuong. According to Ho Thi Thuong, wife of Doan Vien Dien and mother of Doan Huy Chuong, the court refused because in giving interviews with Radio Free Asia, the four committing very serious crimes because they had defamed the government and many people had listened. The four have jail terms ranging from 18 months to 4 ½ years.

The Vietnamese government accused the four of collecting complaints of land-rights violations and giving the information to Radio Free Asia and other news organizations. The four are also accused of distributing anti-government leaflets prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The four are affiliated with the United Workers-Farmers Organization [UWFO]. UWFO campaigns for the right to form independent labor unions and defends farmers whose land has been confiscated

Vietnam news organizations have reported that the four have deliberated tried to sabotage Vietnam with lies. According the Vietnam news organizations, the four men have collected information regarding land-rights in the country and changed their contents before distributing them and uploaded the information on anti-Vietnam websites. Doan Van Dien is also accused of asking his son Doan Huy Chuong to give phone interviews to Radio Free Asia and Hoa Mai Club Radio disguised as a worker taking part in the labor strikes. Vietnam news organizations allege that Doan Huy Chuong distorted facts and falsely accused the state of repressing workers and arresting demonstrators.

For more information, please see:

Earthtimes – Vietnamese Dissidents’ Sentences Upheld – 26 February 2008

Radio Free Asia – Vietnam Upholds Dissident Jail Terms – 27 February 2008

VietNamNet – Court Reject Saboteurs’ Appeal of Sentence Cut – 26 February 2008

Vietnamese Court Upholds Dissidents’ Jail Sentences

By Kristy Tridhavee
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer,
Asia

HANOI, Vietnam – A Vietnamese appeals court upheld the sentences of four dissidents who were sentenced in 2007 for “spreading distorted information to undermine the state.” Judge Nguyen Xuan Phat of the Supreme Court of Appeals in Ho Chi Minh City refused to reduce the sentences of Tran Thi Le Hong, Phung Quang Quyen, Doan Van Dien, and his son Doan Huy Chuong. According to Ho Thi Thuong, wife of Doan Vien Dien and mother of Doan Huy Chuong, the court refused because in giving interviews with Radio Free Asia, the four committing very serious crimes because they had defamed the government and many people had listened. The four have jail terms ranging from 18 months to 4 ½ years.

The Vietnamese government accused the four of collecting complaints of land-rights violations and giving the information to Radio Free Asia and other news organizations. The four are also accused of distributing anti-government leaflets prior to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit. The four are affiliated with the United Workers-Farmers Organization [UWFO]. UWFO campaigns for the right to form independent labor unions and defends farmers whose land has been confiscated

Vietnam news organizations have reported that the four have deliberated tried to sabotage Vietnam with lies. According the Vietnam news organizations, the four men have collected information regarding land-rights in the country and changed their contents before distributing them and uploaded the information on anti-Vietnam websites. Doan Van Dien is also accused of asking his son Doan Huy Chuong to give phone interviews to Radio Free Asia and Hoa Mai Club Radio disguised as a worker taking part in the labor strikes. Vietnam news organizations allege that Doan Huy Chuong distorted facts and falsely accused the state of repressing workers and arresting demonstrators.

For more information, please see:

Earthtimes – Vietnamese Dissidents’ Sentences Upheld – 26 February 2008

Radio Free Asia – Vietnam Upholds Dissident Jail Terms – 27 February 2008

VietNamNet – Court Reject Saboteurs’ Appeal of Sentence Cut – 26 February 2008

Media Crackdown Follows Violent Protests in Cameroon

By:  M. Brandon Maggiore
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Africa

YAOUNDE, Cameroon – At least 17 people have been killed in protests in Cameroon in which youths are fighting with police. The opposition says the unrest is due to the rising costs of fuel and food while the president of Cameroon, Paul Biya, accused his political rivals of creating the unrest in order to depose him. The violence started as a nationwide transport strike because of fuel costs and turned into anti-government demonstrations. Preisdent Biya has been in power for twenty-five years and has suggested amending the constitution of Cameroon so that he can run for president again in 2011, another source of anger amongst the protesters.

Biya says he will use all legal means to end the violence in which boarding schools have been targeted by mobs of young men demanding they join the protesters. The boarding schools may have been targeted by the youths because the children of the Cameroonian elite are students there. Teachers managed to prevent the taking of most of the students except for about two-hundred. There is fear that the students were taken to be used as human shields. Some children are still unaccounted for after most returned to their homes or boarding schools within several hours. However, it is believed that a teenage boy was shot dead in Bamenda.

The main journalist’s union in Cameroon accused the government of trying to silence media coverage of the riots. A privately owned radio station in Yaounde was shut down by armed law enforcement on Thursday after callers to the radio station criticized the President’s handling of the protests. This shutdown followed the shutdown of a radio station in Biya on Tuesday. Reporters Without Borders has also expressed its concern over the media crackdown in Cameroon and has called on the government to return all equipment removed from the radio station in Yaounde and to permit it to resume broadcasting.

Cameroonian writers, both from inside Cameroon and abroad, signed a letter sent to deputies in the government urging them not to modify the country’s constitution. The letter used strong language stating a “single foul play with the constitution could plunge the entire nation into insurmountable chaos.” The letter also criticized members of parliament saying “The President has availed himself of the de facto majority accorded him in the national assembly by you, CPDM parliamentarians, to trample on the constitution of this land. Worse still, he has had recourse to armed elements of the police force to silence those dissenting voices that have dared to openly object to his scheme.”

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Deadly violence rages in Cameroon – 29 February 2008

Reuters – Cameroon govt accused of muzzling media over riots – 29 February 2008

afrol News – Cameroon writers warn MPs – 29 February 2008

Reporters Without Borders – Private radio suspended, independent newspapers prevented from appearing – 29 February 2008

Amnesty International Calls for Iran to End Gender Discrimination

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

LONDON, England – In a new report, Amnesty International claims that Iran continues to harass activists working to promote women’s rights.

Kurdish Iranian activists Ronak Safarzadeh and Hana Abdi are currently detained without charge or trial and denied access to a lawyer.

According to the report, the two activists were arrested in October and November 2007 for peacefully exercising their rights.  Both were working for the Campaign for Equality, an Iranian women’s rights initiative launched in 2006.

Currently, the Campaign for Equality is attempting to gather one million Iranian national signatures for a petition demanding the end of legal gender discrimination in Iran.  The Campaign for Equality also provides legal training to volunteers who talk to women across the country about the need for reform.

The Amnesty International report said that those involved with the Campaign have been harassed and intimidated.  Dozens of women who worked with the Campaign have been arrested and the organization’s website has been blocked at least seven times.

There are several Iranian laws that discriminate against women.  According to Ann Harrison, a spokeswoman for Amnesty, women are discriminated against in the civil code and in areas of marriage and divorce.  For example, women can be married at the age of 13 or younger if the girl’s parents apply to a court.

According to Harrison, a woman’s weight of testimony in an Iranian court is worth half that of a man’s.  In addition, women are likely to receive half the amount of compensation for injuries that a man receives.  Also, women are excluded from serving in the most senior positions in the government and as judges.

The recent backlash against women’s rights may be in response to an increase in women attending the country’s higher education institutions.  Women currently outnumber men at universities and the disparity is greater at medical schools.

Recently, Iran imposed a new law instituting a gender quota for university classes.  The quota requires each class to consist of at least 30 percent men and 30 percent women, while the remainder of the spots will be determined competitively.

According to a Pakistani news organization, the Daily Times, the quota was put in place in part to prevent women from dominating the medical profession.  The quota will increase the amount of women in some fields, such as mathematics and engineering, where there are fewer female students.  But the quota will also reduce the amount of women in the medical profession.

For more information, please see: Amnesty International – Women Act Against Repression and Intimidation in Iran – 28 February 2008

Amnesty International – Iran: Persecution of Women’s Rights Campaigners Rife – New Report – 28 February 2008

BBC – Iran ‘Targeting’ Women Activists – 28 February 2008

VOA – Amnesty International Calls for Iran to End Gender Discrimination – 28 February 2008

FOX Business News – Iran Continues to Intimidate and Harass Women Human Rights Defenders According to Amnesty International – 27 February 2008

Daily Times – Iran Plans University Quotas Based on Gender – 26 February 2008

Campaign for Equality’s website: http://www.we4change.info/english/spip.php?article144

BRIEF: Attempt to Halt Rwandan Trials

NAIROBI, Kenya – The lawyers for Rwanda’s leader Paul Kagame are demanding the suspension of the trial and investigation against Kagame. President Kagame and his Tutsi rebels are credited with halting the 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus within 100 days.

Judges in France and Spain has called for the prosecution of Kagame and 40 of his associates for the killing of thousands of civilians including nine Spaniards. In November 2006, a Paris anti-terrorist judge issued a summons for Kagame to stand trial for the murder of his predecessor, Juvenal Habyarimana, whose death instigated the genocide. Kagame has denied the claims.

France and Spain could not prosecute Kagame since he has immunity as a head of state. Peter Erlinder, head of the Defense Lawyer’s Association, requests an independent investigation by the U.N. Security Council of manipulation of the prosecutor’s office. Defense lawyers claim the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) should cease investigations because it is biased.

For more information please see:

Yahoo News (Reuters) – Lawyers Try to Halt Rwanda Genocide Tribunal – 27 February 2008

China Willing to Resume Human Right Talks

By Ariel Lin
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

BEIJING, China – China said it would resume a human rights dialogue with the United States after a five-year halt, taking a step to prevent rights advocates from boycotting Beijing’s Olympic Games in August.

After a close talk with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi made the announcement that Chinese government is willing to resume the human rights dialogue.  He said that the Chinese people enjoy the full extent of human rights and religious freedom, and are willing to exchange and interact with the United States and other countries on human rights on a basis of mutual respect, equality and noninterference in internal affairs.

China suspended the regular U.S.-China human rights dialogue in 2004, after the U.S. State Department cited the execution of a Tibetan and the arrests of pro-democracy activists as ‘troubling incidents’ that showed China was ‘backsliding’ on human rights issues in a resolution at the 60th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights.  Even without the formal dialogue, U.S. officials have made human rights a routine topic in discussions with Chinese government.

During the talk, Rice reminds Yang that human rights are ‘near and dear’ to the United States and raised three specific cases of particular interest to the Bush administration.  She also called on China to use its influence to persuade North Korea to speed the dismantling of its nuclear weapons program.

Recently, many western human rights groups are increasingly accusing China of being unfit to host the Olympics because the rights abuses.  In addition, some human rights activities and American celebrities have mounted a campaign against China as host of the Game because of Darfur.  Yang’s declaration appeared designed as a response to these criticisms.

For more information, please see:

Bloomberg – China Willing to Resume Human Rights Talks With U.S. – 26 February 2008

New York Times – China Says It Will Resume Human Rights Talks – 27 February 2008

Washington Post – China Set to Resume Human Rights Dialogue – 27 February 2008

UPDATE: Agreement Reached in Kenyan Peace Talks

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), have signed an agreement that will create a new coalition government.The agreement comes after more than one month of negotiations brokered by Kofi Anan. The agreement, which is expected to be released later today, will detail the plans for the sharing of power between members of the current government and opposition leaders.

For more information, please see:

BBC News – Kenya rivals agree to share power – 28 February 2008

Impunity Watch – Update: Anan Calls for Break in Kenyan Negotiations – 26 February 2008

Chemical Ali Execution Approved

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On February 29, Iraqi officials announced that its presidential council approved the execution of “Chemical Ali”, whose real name is Ali Hassan al-Majid.  In June 2007, an Iraqi court convicted Majid of genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity for his role in the Alfal campaign against the Kurds in 1988.

In 1988, Majid was the commander of Iraqi forces in northern Iraq and following the cease-fire ending the Iran-Iraq war, he ordered the use of chemical weapons against the Kurds.  Alfal, meaning “spoils of war” was a campaign that targeted Iraq’s Kurdish population, who supported Iran during the war.  During Majid’s trial, the court heard that as many as 182,000 died in attacks that he oversaw.

During the trial, Majid remained defiant and showed no remorse.  At one hearing, he said, “I am the one who gave orders to the army to demolish villages and relocate the villagers. I am not apologizing. I did not make a mistake.”

His conviction and death sentence was upheld by an appeals court in September 2007.  Iraqi law states that executions must be carried out within 30 days of it being approved by the presidential council.  The US military stated that they have not received a request to turn Majid over; however, an adviser to Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki said that Majid will be hung in a “matter of days.”

While his sentence was affirmed by an appeals court in September, his execution has been delayed due to legal and political concerns.  Majid was convicted along with two other top officials of the Hussein government – Hussein Rashid al-Tikriti, a senior military chief, and the former defense minister, Sultan Hashim al-Tai.

The presidential council, which comprises Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani and his two vice presidents, Tareq al-Hashemi, a Sunni Arab, and Adel Abdul-Mahdi, a Shia, disagreed over the sentence of Hashim.  Iraqi Sunnis protested his sentence and  Hashemi was among prominent Sunnis who insisted Hashim was simply following orders and should be reprieved.

The US military, who has custody of the three former leaders, refused to surrender  any until the presidential council reached agreement.  While the council approved Majid’s execution, they have not yet approved the executions of Tikriti and Hashim.

For more information, please see:
Al Arabiya News Channel – Iraq Council Approves ‘Chemical Ali” Hanging – 29 February 2008

BBC – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved – 29 February 2008

Guardian – Chemical Ali to be Executed within 30 Days – 29 February 2008

Telegraph – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution Approved in Iraq – 29 February 2008

Washington Post – ‘Chemical Ali’ Execution OK’d in Iraq – 29 February 2008

Egypt Delays Verdict for Muslim Brotherhood Trial

By Laura Zuber
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Middle East

CAIRO, Egypt – On February 26, an Egyptian court delayed delivering the verdict for a case involving 40 members of the Muslim Brotherhood.  The court postponed the verdict until March 25, one week after the nominations for the upcoming local elections.  According to the brotherhood, the court’s delay was politically motivated.

The municipal elections were scheduled for April 2006 but were postponed after members of the Muslim Brotherhood won 20 percent of the seats in the parliamentary elections in 2005.  It is speculated that group will win a landslide victory if its leaders are allowed to participate in the local elections scheduled for April 8.

In the past, the local councils have had relatively little power in national politics.  However, constitutional amendments in 2005 require that presidential candidates obtain 140 recommendations city councils before they could run.  If the Muslim Brotherhood wins enough seats in the local elections on April 8, they could challenge Mubarak for the presidency in the next presidential election.

Of the 40 defendants, 33 have been held since their arrest December 2006 and the other seven are being tried in absentia.  The defendants are being tried by a military tribunal for charges of money laundering and terrorism.  Earlier, an appeals court held that the defendants should be tried in a civilian court, but the state overturned the decision and the military tribunal resumed last year.

On February 24, nearly 2,500 students, most of whom are members of the Muslim Brotherhood, protested the trial.  At Ain Shams University, in Cairo, and al-Azhar University, in Assiut, students shouted anti-government slogans and condemned the trial.  Also, when the postponement was announced, several hundred protesters gathered outside the court at the Haekstep military base.

In the past two weeks, over 250 members of the Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested.  Many of those arrested are potential candidates in the local elections.  In total, the group claims that over 600 of its members are imprisoned.  Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh, an influential Brotherhood member, warned that there could be up to 10,000 arrests by the time polls close on election day.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which was founded in 1928, has been banned in Egypt since 1954.  The organization is the current government’s greatest opposition.  The Egyptian police officials state the many of the recent detainees were arrested under suspicion of being members of the banned group.

For more information, please see:
AHN – Egyptian Protesters Angered at Military Trial Verdict Delay – 27 February 2008

Al Jazeera – Egypt Accused of Delay Tactic – 27 February 2008

Reuters – Egypt Delays Brotherhood Verdict and Arrests 17 – 26 February 2008

International Herald Tribune – Over 2,000 Egyptian University Students Protest Against Islamist Leaders’ Military Trial – 24 February 2008

International Herald Tribune – Muslim Brotherhood Says Egypt’s Government Trying to Block it from Key Local Elections – 21 February 2008

BBC – Egypt Detains Brotherhood Members – 20 February 2008

CNN – Egyptian Security Forces Raid Muslim Brotherhood – 20 February 2008

Jurist – Egypt Police Arrest 70 more Muslim Brotherhood Candidates Ahead of Local Elections – 20 February 2008

BRIEF: Pressure on Musharraf to Convene Parliament

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan- As a representative of the new opposition coalition government (see Impunity Watch article here), former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif publicly urged President Pervez Musharraf to convene a session of the newly elected Parliament.

The Parliament cannot hold a session until the government’s Election Commission officially announces the results of the February 18 election.

The coalition government maintains that they have won at least two-thirds of the seats, meaning that once they convene they could repeal constitutional amendments imposed by Musharraf or even impeach him.

After a coalition meeting, Sharif addressed a news conference stating: “I would like to say on behalf of all of my colleagues that we inform Mr. Musharraf that we are not prepared to wait for a single day more for the assembly to be convened… It should be amply clear to him that the nation has given a verdict against dictatorship.”

For more information, please see:

New York Times – Parties Press Pakistan Leader to Convene Assembly – 28 February 2008

Moroccan Jailed For Royal Facebook Impersonation

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Importer, Middle East Desk

CASABLANCA, Morocco – A Moroccan court sentenced Fouad Mourtada to three years in prison and a 10,000 dirhams ($1,304) fine on February 22 for making a fake Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid.

Mourtada, a 26 year-old computer engineer, was accused of “villainous practices” and of stealing the identity of the crown prince, who is second in line to the throne.  There are thousands of fake profiles exist on Facebook, ranging from President George W. Bush to Osama Bin Laden.

After posting the fake profile, Mourtada was allegedly kidnapped and tortured on February 5.  A website started by his family and supporters said that Mourtada was arrested, blindfolded and taken to an unknown building where he was beaten and insulted (www.helpfouad.com).  The Moroccan Security Forces denied that Mourtada was tortured.

Mourtada is quoted as saying the following to relatives who visited him in jail: “I never thought that by creating a profile of his Highness Prince Moulay Rachid I am harming him in any way.”  Mourtada said he built the page as a tribute to Prince Rachid.  “I admire him,” Mourtada said.

Since the allegations were made, the Moroccan blogosphere has exploded in protest.  Facebook groups, such as “Help Fouad Mourtada – Aidez Fouad Mourtada,” have given further notice to the issue.  The group is planning a peaceful protest outside of the Moroccan Embassy on March 1.

Since Mourtada’s arrest, at least four other Facebook profiles of Prince Rachid have sprung up, although the pages’ authors are thought to be outside of Moracco and beyond the country’s jurisdiction.

Reporters Without Borders expressed their worry that Mourtada’s arrest would have a stifling effect on free speech.

“This is the first time a Moroccan has been convicted for an online offence and Mourtada was the victim of a summary trial,” a Reporters Without Borders press release said.

“We are worried about the effect on freedom of expression on the Moroccan Internet as all of the country’s bloggers will feel targeted. This disproportionate sentence has shocked the Moroccan blogger community, which is one of the biggest in the region.”

Mourtada’s sister, Amina, echoed those sentiments, telling the Washington Post “Morocco should not want to go down in history as the first country to torture and imprison someone ‘for having created a profile on Facebook.’”

Mourtada’s brother, Ilyas, said the family would appeal the conviction.

For more information, please see:
Reporters Without Borders – Moroccan Bloggers Worried After “Disproportionate” Three-Year Jail Term For Internet User Who Created Spoof Facebook Profile – 26 February 2008

The Washington Post – Fouad Mourtada Gets Three Years for Phony Facebook Page – 26 February 2008

CNN – Morocco Jails Facebook Royal Imposter – 25 February 2008

New York Times – Morocco: Prison for Facebook Prince – 23 February 2008

United Press International – 3 Years for Royal Facebook Fake in Morocco – 23 February 2008

Reuters – Moroccan Jailed over Spoofing Prince on Facebook – 22 February 2008

For sites supporting Fouad Mourtada, please see:
Facebook – Help Fouad Mourtada – Aidez Fouad Mourtada

Fouad Mourtada’s Family’s Website – http://www.helpfouad.com/

Moroccan Jailed For Royal Facebook Impersonation

By Ben Turner
Impunity Watch Importer, Middle East Desk

CASABLANCA, Morocco – A Moroccan court sentenced Fouad Mourtada to three years in prison and a 10,000 dirhams ($1,304) fine on February 22 for making a fake Facebook profile of Prince Moulay Rachid.

Mourtada, a 26 year-old computer engineer, was accused of “villainous practices” and of stealing the identity of the crown prince, who is second in line to the throne.  There are thousands of fake profiles exist on Facebook, ranging from President George W. Bush to Osama Bin Laden.

After posting the fake profile, Mourtada was allegedly kidnapped and tortured on February 5.  A website started by his family and supporters said that Mourtada was arrested, blindfolded and taken to an unknown building where he was beaten and insulted (www.helpfouad.com).  The Moroccan Security Forces denied that Mourtada was tortured.

Mourtada is quoted as saying the following to relatives who visited him in jail: “I never thought that by creating a profile of his Highness Prince Moulay Rachid I am harming him in any way.”  Mourtada said he built the page as a tribute to Prince Rachid.  “I admire him,” Mourtada said.

Since the allegations were made, the Moroccan blogosphere has exploded in protest.  Facebook groups, such as “Help Fouad Mourtada – Aidez Fouad Mourtada,” have given further notice to the issue.  The group is planning a peaceful protest outside of the Moroccan Embassy on March 1.

Since Mourtada’s arrest, at least four other Facebook profiles of Prince Rachid have sprung up, although the pages’ authors are thought to be outside of Moracco and beyond the country’s jurisdiction.

Reporters Without Borders expressed their worry that Mourtada’s arrest would have a stifling effect on free speech.

“This is the first time a Moroccan has been convicted for an online offence and Mourtada was the victim of a summary trial,” a Reporters Without Borders press release said.

“We are worried about the effect on freedom of expression on the Moroccan Internet as all of the country’s bloggers will feel targeted. This disproportionate sentence has shocked the Moroccan blogger community, which is one of the biggest in the region.”

Mourtada’s sister, Amina, echoed those sentiments, telling the Washington Post “Morocco should not want to go down in history as the first country to torture and imprison someone ‘for having created a profile on Facebook.’”

Mourtada’s brother, Ilyas, said the family would appeal the conviction.

For more information, please see:
Reporters Without Borders – Moroccan Bloggers Worried After “Disproportionate” Three-Year Jail Term For Internet User Who Created Spoof Facebook Profile – 26 February 2008

The Washington Post – Fouad Mourtada Gets Three Years for Phony Facebook Page – 26 February 2008

CNN – Morocco Jails Facebook Royal Imposter – 25 February 2008

New York Times – Morocco: Prison for Facebook Prince – 23 February 2008

United Press International – 3 Years for Royal Facebook Fake in Morocco – 23 February 2008

Reuters – Moroccan Jailed over Spoofing Prince on Facebook – 22 February 2008

For sites supporting Fouad Mourtada, please see:
Facebook – Help Fouad Mourtada – Aidez Fouad Mourtada

Fouad Mourtada’s Family’s Website – http://www.helpfouad.com/

Human Rights Groups Urge Chad to Release Suspected Prisoners

By Ted Townsend,
Impunity Watch Reporter, Africa

PARIS, France – Representatives from rights groups, including Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, pressed French President Nicolas Sarkozy not to “cover up” the actions of Chadnian President Idriss Deby (“Deby”). Deby is accused of playing a role in the February 3rd disappearance of members of political opposition groups, as part of a crackdown against political opponents after a failed coup. Further investigation by Human Rights Watch has determined the opposition politicians were taken by state security forces, despite Chadnian claims to the contrary.

The Chadnian Government denies any role in the disappearances, and stated that “an official inquiry had been unable to locate Ibni Oumar Mahamat Saleh (Saleh) . . . and Ngarley Yorongar (Yorongar).” Both men are vocal members of the political opposition; Saleh a spokesman for a coalition of opposition parties, and Yorongar a prominent member of the opposition in Parliament.

Further, Chadnian Interior Minister Ahmat Bachir suggested that since the men were seized while rebels controlled the N’Djamena neighborhoods they lived in, they were likely rebel captives. Chadnian Foreign Minister Ahmad Allam-Mi also added that Yorongar was “hiding” in N’Djamena, and that Yorongar’s sister and chauffer said he was going to resurface and speak to the press soon. The chauffeur refutes this, claiming he has not heard from Yorongar since February third.

Multiple eyewitnesses told Human Rights Watch researchers that Chadnian government soldiers took each man into custody, forcing their way into each man’s home and removing him forcefully. The eyewitnesses detailed each arrest, claiming that ten soldiers in Chadnian army uniforms took each man away in beige Toyota four-wheel drive vehicles, the type of vehicle that is standard issue in the Chadnian army.

Human Rights Watch African Director Georgette Gagnon believes the “Chadnian Government should publicly acknowledge the whereabouts of Yorongar and Ibni.” “They should be released immediately, or charged with a crime and accorded all their rights.” An Amnesty International representative added “These men are at grave risk of being tortured. The French Government should not cover up the excesses of the Chadnian Government.”

The pressure this week is focused on France because President Sarkozy is visiting the former French Colony this week. Many see the French in the best position to effectuate the release of the prisoners given the relationship between the two countries. President Sarkozy, for his part, claimed “he would ask Deby to set up an independent inquiry into the disappearances.”

 

For more information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Chad: Account for ‘Disappeared’ Opposition Leaders – 25 February 2008

IOL.com – Opposition Figure Still Missing – Colleague – 27 February 2008

VOA News – French President Visits Chad as Rights Groups Urge Pressure on Chadian Leader – 27 February 2008

AFP – Sarkozy urged to press Chad on fate of opposition members – 27 February 2008

Impunity Watch – Amnesty International Claims Chadian Government is Violating Human Rights – 22 February 2008

UPDATE: Anan Calls for Break in Kenyan Negotiations

UDNAIROBI, Kenya – Kofi Anan called for a break in the Kenyan Negotiations because the two sides are at an impasse. Anan said it is time for the principles, Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki and rival Raila Odinga, the leader of the Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), to get directly involved in the negotiations. Anan Plans to meet with them to try and overcome the current stalemate over the details of a power-sharing deal involving the creation of a new prime minister post which is to be occupied by Odinga when first established. The impasse came on the same date the African Union chief Jakaya Kikwete arrived in Kenya to try and support the negotiations.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that there is no excuse for further delay in the two sides reaching an agreement. Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula said that Kenya’s “international friends” an make suggestions to aid the negotiations but that that they cannot impose solutions.

For more information, please see:

Agence France Press – Annan suspends talks with Kenyan crisis negotiators – 26 February 2008

Reuters – Rice demands action as Kenya talks stall – 26 February 2008

Impunity Watch – Brief: Kenyan Peace Talks Faltering – 25 February 2008