Iranian blogger and journalist arrested in Turkey

March 28, 2008

According to German R-Archiv, Iranian journalist, blogger and ex-intelligence agent Amir Farshad Ebrahimi has been arrested in Turkey:

The Iranian blogger, journalist and ex-intelligence agent residing in Germany, Amir Farshad Ebrahimi, has been arrested in Turkey due to a request by Iran, according to informations of the German R-Archiv.de.

The accusations are so far unknown.

Amir Farshad Ebrahimi lives in Germany and has a German (foreigner-) passport with the number N0014860.

(…)

Information for Journalists:

This article is based upon an information of the IRANIAN JEWISH PUBLIC AFFAIRS COMMITTEE (IJPAC), LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA 90067

UPDATE: According to War and Piece, Ebrahimi is back to Germany since this afternoon. ((War and Piece » March 27, 2008))


“Flood the Jail with Mail”

March 26, 2008

Free Kareem and the Committee to Protect Bloggers have announced a joint mail campaign in support of arrested Egyptian blogger Kareem Amer.

From April 7 through April 21, both organizations are encouraging their readers to go analogue and write Kareem a letter or postcard.

There are several reasons for another analogue campaign, as I’ve pointed out in the post I wrote for Free Kareem:

First, we’ve organized demonstrations and public outreach events all over the world but nothing that targets Kareem directly. It is time for a campaign that focuses on him in personal way! He really enjoys letters and they make a difference to him, as he has stated before. Second, a sufficient amount of such mail will remind Egyptian authorities that Kareem, bloggers in general and prisoners of conscience over all, are not alone. Remember, when Kareem was being tortured several months ago, the focus of international media was instrumental in stopping it. And finally, this campaign means an opportunity for us to really do something directly for Kareem.

We have asked you to write to Kareem before, and by all means continue it! But now we are especially asking you to send him at least one letter between April 7 and April 21. During this period, let’s “flood the jail with mail”!

Below you find the address in English, followed by a picture of it in Arabic. It goes without saying that both versions (if you are writing from a non-Arabic country) must be on the mail to assure that it gets delivered.

Alexandria
Borg Al-Arab Prison
Room 1 Section 22
Prisoner Abdul Kareem Nabil Suleiman
The Arab Republic of Egypt

Kareem’s address in Arabic (mandatory to be included on the envelope)

Please also have a look at Alexandra Sandels’ article about this campaign at Menassat, which includes statements by both Free Kareem Founder Esra’a Al-Shafei and Egyptian blogger Wa7damasrya as well as some background information. The campaign has also been covered by Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb.

If you need more information about the “Flood the Jail with Mail” campaign, please feel free to contact the team of Free Kareem.


Fouad Mourtada released

March 19, 2008

According to Global Voices Advocacy ((Global Voices Advocacy » Fouad Mourtada free)), the “Facebook victim” Fouad Mourtada ((Blogger for Freedom » Netizen stand up for arrested Facebook user)) has just been released by Moroccan authorities due to a royal pardon:

Fouad Mourtada, the 26-year old IT engineer who has been arrested on February 5th, 2008 and sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of $1350 for creating a fake Facebook profile of King Mohammed VI’s younger brother, Prince Moulay Rachid, has been released about an hour ago. According to a source close to Help Fouad campaign, Fouad got a full royal pardon and left the Oukacha Prison (Casablanca) at approximately 1:00pm and is on his way home.


Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria

March 4, 2008

Osama Edward Mousa is an Assyrian (Syrian Christian) journalist, blogger and human rights activist. According to Mideast Youth ((Mideast Youth » Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria)), Mousa was arrested by Syrian authorities on February 27. Since then, he has not been heard of, but seems to be held in a Damascus prison. It is feared that he witnesses torture.

Although no reason was given for the detention, it seems as if Mousa was a victim of his online writing. Apparently he was arrested directly due to content on his blog, where he criticized the Syrian government and its economic policies.

Mousa is the second blogger currently imprisoned in Syria. He joins long-term arrested Tariq Baiasi ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers: Tariq Baiasi)), who has been held in custody since July last year. Prior to them, at least three further Syrians had been detained by security forces, as our list of arrested bloggers shows ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers)). Syria is notorious for its human rights abuse and a significant lack of press freedom. When the Reporters without Borders’ annual report on press freedom ((Reporters without Borders » Annual Report)) was released last month, it noted that “the filtering of online traffic significantly increased”, threatening bloggers such as Tariq Baiasi. He was subsequently arrested due to an anonymous comment left on his blog.

In the case of Osama Edward Mousa, it is not a rarely known blogger, but a political journalist who is imprisoned. Other than Baiasi, Mousa seems to have been become the victim of his own writings. There are close to no informations about his arrest; however it shows that the Syrian government and police do not care much for human rights and will continue threatening press freedom even in 2008.

Update: Esra’a of Mideast Youth has informed us that Mousa was released from prison on March 8 ((Mideast Youth » Assyrian blogger arrested in Syria)), but did not give any further informations about the backgrounds of the detention.


Netizens stand up for arrested Facebook user

February 27, 2008

Fouad MourtadaFouad Mourtada only wanted to make a joke when he set up a faked Facebook account for Prince Moulay Rachid of Morocco. It has proven to be a fatal error. On February 22, Mourtada was sentenced to three years in prison for his “crime” – setting up a Facebook account.

On February 5, 2008 Fouad Mourtada was arrested for having created a faked Facebook profile of Morocco’s crown prince, Moulay Rachid, the brother of King Mohammed VI. When his family was able to visit him one week later, he told them he was “embarked, blindfolded, interrogated, persecuted, beaten up, slapped, spat on, slammed for hours with a tool on the head and the legs until he lost consciousness several times and lost the notion of time.” ((Indymedia Paris Île-de-France » Affaire Facebook au Maroc : Fouad Mourtada a été torturé))

The trial was first scheduled to be on February 15, but was delayed till February 22. Despite he claimed the Facebook spoof to be a product of his admiration for the Prince, Fouad Mourtada was sentenced to 3 years in prison and an additional 1.300 $ fine. The netizens’ reactions showed a wide range of emotions between anger and sheer surprise. Nas of Jordan’s Black Iris had awaited Mourtada to get away with the custody ((The Black Iris of Jordan » Fouad Mourtada goes to jail for Facebook spoof)), as he had not committed any serious “crime” such as blogging about politics. He’s outraged about the injustice of the court’s decision:

“…it seems that in Morocco, just like Jordan, it is really, really easy to harm the dignity of the state. Imagine three years of your life completely taken away from you for this ‘crime’.”

Meanwhile, “The Sudanese Thinker” asks ((The Sudanese Thinker » In Morocco, Facebook can send you to jail)) his readers to tell him

“…this isn’t real.”

causing a trivial discussion in his blog. Commenter Dalu writes

“I LOL’ed

Not because it was hilarious.

It’s just, you know, the absurdity of it all.”

summarizing the feelings of many netizens on the case. Many of them, Facebook users like Fouad Mourtada, felt the absurdity of a jail sentence for nothing but setting up a profile on Facebook, which was subsequently deleted a few days later. Prior to the trial, many Moroccan bloggers had started supporting the fellow netizen Mourtada. They set up the campaign site “Help Free Fouad” ((Help Free Fouad – Soutenez la libération de Fouad)). Together, they declared to be on strike for 24 hours on February 19, displaying a common message ((Global Voices Advocacy » Facebook’s fake prince could face five years in prison)). They also started a petition, urging the release of Fouad Mourtada ((Help Free Fouad » Sign Petition)), which has to time been signed by more than 5000 people. Currently, the supporters of Fouad Mourtada are preparing international demonstrations in several European and American cities, hoping to copy the enormous success of the late Free Kareem rallies.

Naturally, there was also a huge storm of protest at Facebook, with a couple of groups supporting Mourtada being created. But the most interesting there is a question posed by Curt Hopkins of the Committee to Protect Bloggers, who asked Facebook for a statement on the case ((Committee to Protect Bloggers » Facebook’s response to Mourtada and others callous and inadequate)). All what Hopkins got was the response that Facebook would not comment on the issue. Possibly, because the Social Networks has been influential by finding out who created the fake profile. The way Mourtada’s identity had been leaked was not announced up to now.

UPDATE:

Citing Wall Street Journal’s Vauhini Vara, the Committe to Protect Bloggers reports ((Committee to Protect Bloggers » Facebook denies culpability in Mourtada debacle)) that Facebook denies to have forwarded Mourtada’s identity to the police. Nevertheless, the speaker announced that Facebook would do so in future cases, if lawfully forced to.

What can I do?

You can sign the petition by “Help Free Fouad”. Also, you may become a member of one or more of the several Facebook groups in support of Fouad Mourtada – here or here.
More physically, there will be several demonstrations held in support of the Moroccan “Facebook victim”. On March 1, 14:00, protesters will gather in front of the Moroccan embassies in Paris, Montreal, London, Brussels, Washington D.C., Amsterdam and Madrid.

Additionally, you may follow Curt Hopkins’ call to support him in his efforts to get a statement from Facebook. He urges everybody to join him demanding a “less callous message from Facebook regarding the arrest”.


Rallies and Articles for Kareem Amer

February 17, 2008

Kareem AmerOn February 22, it’s the first anniversary of the jail sentence against Egyptian Kareem Amer ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested bloggers: Kareem Amer)). Arrested since November 6, 2006 the blogger was sentenced to four years in prison for defaming Allah and President Mubarak. He shall not be forgotten: It’s time for new rallies.

Since his detention, Kareem has suffered in prison. He has been threatened, even tortured ((Free Kareem! » Kareem is being tortured in prison)) – and still says that “prison didn’t change him” ((Free Kareem! » Prison didn’t change me: Kareem Amer)).

The “Free Kareem” campaign ((Free Kareem!)) is for sure the most famous of numerous groups supporting arrested bloggers. Dozens of rallies have been held worldwide, attracting a high media attention on the young Egyptian’s case. To keep up the good work, they call for an “op-ed day” on February 22 as well as for another three rallies in support of Kareem.

“Op-ed” stands for opinion / editorial – and that’s the part of a paper we’re as many as possible articles on Kareem shall be published on February 22. The Free Kareem! group, lead by Esra’a Al-Shafei of Mideast Youth ((Mideast Youth – Thinking Ahead)), is trying to convince journalists and authors from all over the world of writing an article on Kareem Amer. But also bloggers are called for participation – every supportive word is needed.

But words are just one part of the protest: There will also be rallies in three different cities. In Washington D. C., London and Paris supporters of Kareem Amer will hold demonstrations for the freedom of the young Egyptian and, through that, the freedom of expression in Egypt and all over the world. They wont be the first and they hopefully wont be the last demonstrations for Kareem, continuing a long row of rallies in more than a dozen cities of the world.

What can I do

No matter where, you can publish an article on Kareem’s case. If it’s your blog, a student paper or an internationally published magazine – every single word counts.
You may also attend one of the three rallies held for Kareem Amer in Washington D.C., London and Paris.


Campaign to free Syrian blogger Tariq Baiasi started

February 9, 2008

Tariq Baiasi ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested bloggers: Tariq Baiasi)), a Syrian blogger, has been in prison for more than half a year now. He has not been taken to court, no trial was held against him. Far too long, some of his fellow bloggers think – and have started the Free Tariq Campaign ((Free Tariq)) to help him.

Tariq had to wait a long time till his case even got attention. It’s been more than seven months now that the young computer seller, a quiet 23 years old from the city of Banyas, was kidnapped by the Syrian police. His father had spent 20 years behind bars because security agents who mistook him for a Muslim Brotherhood member – Tariq was arrested for a simple comment on the internet. A comment left on a public forum, criticizing the Syrian security forces, caused the bloggers detention on July 7 last year. And since then, nobody has heard of him.

But unlike other arrests of bloggers – i.e. Kareem Amer ((Free Kareem)) or Fouad Al-Farhan ((Free Fouad)) – his detention did not cause an international outcry. Tariq did not have the luck to have highly committed friends, he was no leading blogger. And silence came over his case. It lasted for months, till a single Syrian blogger started to post articles on Tariq again ((Global Voices Advocacy » Syrian bloggers campaign to free fellow blogger Tariq Biasi)). And soon, only a month later, five bloggers founded the group “Free Tariq” ((Free Tariq)).

It’s another one in the long list of groups supporting arrested bloggers. I’ve cited the two most famous Mideastern campaigns, our list of arrested bloggers ((Blogger for Freedom » Arrested Bloggers)) includes some more. One could argue, that all these campaigns, actions, rallies have not freed a single blogger. Kareem, Fouad are still in prison, Hu Jia has just been arrested after two years of house arrest – and Tariq will not get out of prison because of half a dozen concerned bloggers. But the initiators of Free Tariq know these questions. They have interviewed Syrian human rights activist Razan Zeituna about the importance of their campaign ((Free Tariq » Syrian bloggers campaign to free fellow blogger Tariq Biasi)):

Free Tariq: Are these campaigns important? If so, in what sense?

Razan Zeituna: These campaigns are very important, mostly for unleashing the freedom of speech causes from the dual relationship between the regime and human rights organizations, to make it a public affair that would interest wider circles of people and groups. And while these campaigns lobby for and defend people whose basic rights and freedoms are abused, they also raise awareness on the cause for free speech.
Furthermore, it has been a long time in the Arab region since human rights abuses been taken place without effectual attention from media and human rights agencies. This is changing now; these kinds of campaigns and as they put symbolic pressure on the government, it gives the individuals whose rights are invaded, part of what they deserve, and treat them as people with names and dreams…these kinds of campaigns personify and humanize the abstract causes and transfer them from generalizations frames into personal frames.

Freedom is nothing one can get over night. It’s a process – and human rights campaigns, especially if they focus on freedom of speech, are part of this process. Groups like Free Tariq may not free the blogger they focus on, but after all they attract attention on the importance of freedom of speech and create a public consciousness for human rights. As long as people don’t even know about their freedoms, they cannot demand for them. Activists such as the initiators of Free Tariq create the possibility for people to get informed about human rights, enable them to fight for their own freedom and the freedom of others.