Free Roxana Saberi

April 20, 2009

Freelance journalist, Roxana Saberi, was jailed for eight years in Iran this week on sham charges that she was engaged in espionage. Roxana is in the notorious Evin prison in Tehran where political prisoners are often held. [NPR Broadcast on notorious Evin Prison]

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Evin is a hellhole and inmates often subject to torture:

At least two journalists have died ‎there in the last six years amid circumstances that have not been fully explained, CPJ research shows.Omidreza Mirsayafi, a blogger serving a 30-month sentence on a charge of insulting religious figures, died at the prison in March under mysterious circumstances.In July 2003, Iranian-Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi died from a brain hemorrhage that resulted from a beating at Evin Prison. An intelligence agent charged in the killing was acquitted after a flawed trial. Kazemi had been jailed because she took photographs outside the prison. [CPJ 18 April]

The CPJ [9 March] has launched a petition calling on Iranian authorities to release Roxana. Iran is also under mounting diplomatic pressure to free her. The petition is available for signature on Facebook Causes and so far has over 10,000 signatures.

Join the Facebook cause Protect Journalists

The BBC has an interesting profile of Roxana, who was born in America to an Iranian father and Japanese mother. In a weird little footnote, she is a former beauty queen and has a Masters degree from Cambridge. The Huffington Post has more coverage.

There’s a whole diplomatic “back story” to this incident that many are saying is linked to Iran’s attempts to push the United States into more concessions over its nuclear programme. Roxana is now a pawn, it seems, in this zero-sum game of brinkmanship.

The Asian-American Journalists Association has established a Free Roxana website that is being staffed by her friends and former colleagues at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.

It is important to get Roxana out of Evin, but also to understand the brutality of the regime. The online Persian Journal – an outlet for dissident writings about Iran – has a first person account from a woman held in Ervin prison. It is not pretty.

Free Harry – offer not available in Thailand

February 11, 2009

A couple of my very good Aussie friends were visiting Aotearoa this week and we caught up last night for yakitori at Tanuki’s Cave. Unfortunately Tanuki’s is not really a cocktail bar, so I never bother ordering a Martini there. Instead I go for the ice-cold Kirin.

I love Tanuki’s, it has a great jazz soundtrack, the food is fantastic, there’s a good Sake menu and the atmosphere is probably among the coolest in town. As usual the conversation with P&P flowed with the beers and they told me the disturbing story of Harry Nicolaides.

I haven’t come across any coverage of Harry, though I was on my “OE” when most of the drama was taking place. It certainly didn’t make much of a splash in the UK media.

Poor old Harry is festering in a Thai jail for insulting the Thai king in one line in a self-published novel that has sold seven copies. It seems that at least one copy found its way into the hands of the Thai secret police, because  in August 2008 Harry  was arrested and charged with the crime of “le majeste”.

The Thais take their royal family very seriously – we’ve all seen those fading colour prints in Thai restaurants all over the world – and Harry Nicolaides is now paying the price.

It’s a shocking way to treat anyone, but Harry did not set out to offend the Thai king and he’s also issued a sincere public apology. Unfortunately, he’s now in prison serving a three-year sentence.

A website and campaign has been established to bring Harry home. Read the rest of this entry »

Soon Juan and Siok Chin are in jail

June 8, 2008

This post on the interesting and bolshie website confirms that the Chees are in jail in Singapore. The news-blog reports a lively protest outside the prison on Friday night:

The candle-light vigil for Dr Chee Soon Juan at the Queenstown Remand Prison last Friday night ended with a difference.

Departing from the normal, the more than 30 SDP members, supporters and activists sang the song “We shall overcome” with gusto as bewildered guards inside prison gates were startled and stared with a sense of loss at the group outside.

The emotionally charged number reverberated through the still night, prompting the impromptu choir to go for an encore.

Dr Chee is serving 12 days in prison for a contempt-of-court offence.

His sister, Chee Siok Chin, is also in prison for the same offence. [read]

It’s time to step up demands for their release and for the dropping of all charges of contempt and defamation against the brother and sister activists.

Read the rest of this entry »