The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN was set up in 1960 as a result of mounting concern about attempts to silence critical voices around the world through the detention of writers. It works on behalf of all those who are detained or otherwise persecuted for their opinions expressed in writing and for writers who are under attack for their peaceful political activities or for the practice of their profession, provided that they did not use violence or advocate violence or racial hatred.
Member centres of International PEN are active in campaigning for an improvement in the conditions of persecuted writers and journalists.
They send letters to the governments concerned and lobby their own governments to campaign for the release of detained writers and for investigations in cases of torture and killings. Through writing to the families and, where possible, directly to prisoners, they provide encouragement and hope.
Our membership is open to all published writers who subscribe to the PEN Charter regardless of nationality, language, race, colour or religion. International PEN is a non-political organisation and has special consultative status at UNESCO and the United Nations.
INTERNATIONAL PEN CHARTER
PEN affirms that:
1. Literature knows no frontiers and must remain common currency among people in spite of political or international upheavals.
2. In all circumstances, and particularly in time of war, works of art, the patrimony of humanity at large, should be left untouched by national
or political passion.
3. Members of PEN should at all times use what influence they have in favour of good understanding and mutual respect between nations; they
pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds, and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in
4. PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and community to which they belong, as well as throughout the world wherever this is possible.
PEN declares for a free press and opposes arbitrary censorship in time of peace. It believes that the necessary advance of the world towards a more highly organized political and economic order renders a free criticism of governments, administrations and institutions imperative. And since freedom implies voluntary restraint, members pledge themselves to oppose such evils of a free press as mendacious publication, deliberate falsehood and distortion of facts for political and personal ends.
Membership of PEN is open to all qualified writers, editors and translators who subscribe to these aims, without regard to nationality, ethnic origin, language, colour or religion.
The WiPC gathers its information from a wide variety of sources. It seeks to confirm its information through two independent sources. Where its information is unconfirmed, it will either take not action, or send an appeal worded to reflect the fact that the information is as yet incomplete.
Sources include press reports, reports form individuals in the region in question, reports from other human rights groups PEN members themselves, embassy officials, academics, prisoners’ families, lawyers and friends, and exile groups. It also works with international NGOs,
such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. It is a founder member of IFEX – the International Freedom of Expression Exchange. IFEX is a collaborative, on-line service in which several groups involved in the campaign for free expression pool information.
Other members include Article 19, the Committee to Protect Journalists, Index on Censorship, the International Federation of Journalists and Reporters sans Frontieres, as well as regional and national groups. For further details see the IFEX website www.IFEX.org
The work of the Writers in Prison Committee is supported by:
OXFAM/NOVIB, Swedish International Development Foundation, Norwegian Ministry for Foreign Affairs, the Fritt Ord Foundation, UNESCO, Individual donations and membership fees from PEN members
International PEN is a registered charity in the United Kingdom, number 1117088
For information about how to get involved and support International PEN contact us at:
International PEN, Brownlow House, 50 – 51 High Holborn, London, WC1V 6ER or tel: +44 (0) 207 405 0338
The Writers in Prison Committee of International PEN records of persecuted writers are updated daily. For up-to-date information on a particular country (or countries), contact the Writers in Prison Committee headquarters in London.
Anyone wishing to take action on any individual mentioned in this Caselist should contact the Writers in Prison Committee headquarters for any update there may be on the case and for advice on appeals.
Explanation of Terms Used Important: Please Read Main Cases
Those cases listed as 'main cases' are those where the Writers in Prison Committee is confident that:
i. the person is a writer or journalist or is persecuted because of their writings;
ii. the person has not used violence towards his or her aims or advocated racial hatred.
In these cases, the Writers in Prison Committee will take all possible action for their release or for compensation. In cases where a prisoner is held without charge or trial for a considerable length of time, the Writers in Prison Committee will consider them to be a main case until and unless information is provided which shows that they have used violence or advocated racial hatred.
These are cases where the main concern includes convictions based on trial proceedings which were manifestly unfair, where there are serious concerns regarding allegations of torture or where there are other irregularities in the judicial process. In these cases, the Writers in Prison Committee calls for a re-trial following fair trial practice or is calling for an investigation of the alleged malpractice and for those found guilty of committing such acts as torture to be brought to justice.
An investigation case is one where the Writers in Prison Committee:
i. needs more information to ascertain whether a person is a writer or is persecuted for their writings;
ii. is not clear as to whether or not he or she has used violence or advocated racial hatred;
iii. has insufficient information to confirm that the event has taken place;
iv. is seeking confirmation that the person is still detained.
The Writers in Prison Committee publishes details of investigation cases so as to provide a complete account of reports of abuses against individuals practicising their right to free expression in all countries. However, it will not usually call for their release. Once sufficient
information is available, their cases will be reclassified as a main case or dropped as appropriate.
'*' by a name indicates that the case is new to the Committee's list since the last Writers in Prison Committee report. The last report was dated December 2007.
A FEW CASES:
Judicial Concern – sentence dropped
Samina MALIK (f): age 23. Former shop worker at Heathrow Airport.
Self styled “Lyrical Terrorist” for her poetry. The first woman to be
convicted under Britian’s Anti Terror Act. Arrested in October 2006 and
held under house arrest until sentenced by a jury on 6 December 2007 to 8 months in prison suspended for 18 months. Convicted for having publications including “The Al-Qaeda Manual” and “The Mujahideen Poisons Handbook” considered under the “likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. Malik had also posted poems on the Internet that praised martyrdom, described beheadings and hatred of non-Muslims. She later in court described her poems as “meaningless”,
an attempt to be “cool” and had been taken too literally. On 17
June 2008 the Court of Appeal decided to quash the sentence given to
Malik, stating that the conviction for possessing items of use to terrorism was unsafe. Referring to Section 58 of the Terrorism Act, the Court concluded that the offence would be committed under that legislation only if a document was likely to provide practical assistance to a person committing or preparing the act of terrorism, and that this did not occur in Malik’s case.
ASIA and PACIFIC
Death sentence: Main case
*Sayed Parwez KAMBAKHSH:
D.o.b.: 1985 Profession: Student at Balkh university and reporter for the local daily Jahan-e-Naw (The New World). Date of arrest: 27 October 2007. Sentence: Sentenced to death. Details of arrest: Arrested in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh province, northern Afghanistan for distributing allegedly anti-Islamic literature. He was detained by National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces on blasphemy charges after allegedly downloading and giving to friends an article claiming that the Prophet Mohammed ignored women’s rights. He was not the author of the article. He was also reportedly accused of possessing anti-Islamic books and starting un-Islamic debates in his classes.
Details of trial: He was tried by an Islamic court in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh Province, on 22 January 2008, and sentenced to death. The trial was reportedly held behind closed doors, and he had no legal representation. The appeal hearing at the Kabul Appeal Court has been adjourned four times since it opened on 18 May 2008. No date has been set for the next hearing.
Place of detention: Initially, he was detained in Pul-e-Sharkhi
jail, east of the capital city. On 27 March 2008 he was transferred to
Kabul. Other information: He is feared to be targeted for association
with his brother, prominent journalist Sayed Yaqub Ibrahimi, who works for the Institute of War and Peace Reporting and has been under escalating pressure for his critical reporting on local officials and warlords.
(RAN 2/08 – 24 January 2008; Update #1 – 4 June 2008; Update #2 – 24 June 2008)
*Dr Khalil NARMGOI: Satirist and medical doctor. Reportedly arrested on 10 June 2008 for writing a letter critical of the government, published in the weekly Paiam Mojahed. Said to have been briefly detained several months ago after the letter’s publication, and forced to make a public apology. Now said to have been re-arrested and sentenced to one year in prison for the letter. Reportedly held in Kabul. WiPC seeking further details.
*Rabiul ISLAM: Journalist for the Bangla language newspaper Daily
Sunshine, based in Rajshahi, was reportedly taken to into custody for
twelve hours and accused of participating in a robbery. Islam has written on alleged corruption and malpractice in the police in Durgapur. Islam’s family had to provide statements as to his good character on 28 March 2008, in order to be released.
*Tasneem KHALIL: Journalist for the English language newspaper The Daily Star and consultant for Human Rights Watch, was held by the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence (DGFI) in a clandestine detention centre, for twenty-two hours on 11 May 2007. According to reports, armed men claiming to belong to the ‘joint forces’ went into Khalil’s flat, located in central Dhaka, blindfolded him and took him to a waiting vehicle. The journalist was put in an interrogation cell, where he was reportedly beaten and threatened with execution, and forced to confess to anti-state activities and smuggling sensitive information regarding national security to foreign organisations. After his release, the journalist went into hiding and is now seeking asylum. (HWR report
*Arefin SIDDIQUE: Professor of mass communication at Dhaka
University, received several telephone death threats, by anonymous
callers, during February 2008. It has been reported that Professor
Siddique has repeatedly called for democracy in Bangladesh.
On trial, free on bail
Salah Uddin Shoaib CHOUDHURY: Editor of the tabloid weekly
Blitz. Arrested on 29 November 2003 by security personnel at Zia
International Airport in Dhaka. He was reportedly on his way to Israel to participate in a conference with the Hebrew Writers Association when he was arrested. Choudhury is believed to have been going to address a writers’ symposium in Tel Aviv entitled Bridges Through Culture, and was scheduled to speak about the role of the media in establishing peace.
Choudhury is known for his attempts to improve relations between
Muslim countries and Israel, and has written articles against anti-Israeli attitudes in Muslim countries and about the rise of al-Qaeda in
Bangladesh, which had reportedly sparked debate in the Bangladeshi
press and government prior to his arrest. Choudhury was accused of
spying for Israel, and was repeatedly denied a bail hearing. He was
released on bail on 2 May 2005 following appeals by PEN USA. His trial
started on 5 April 2006, and is ongoing as of 30 June 2008. Choudhury
continues as editor of Blitz and remains under pressure from the government and extremist groups for his critical writings.
Honorary member of: USA PEN and English PEN. (Update #4 to RAN 23/04, 26 March 07).
Jahangir Alam AKASH: Reporter for the daily Dainik Sangbad.
Reportedly taken from his home on 23 October 2007 in the northwestern City of Rajshahi, by members a government task force and arrested under the Emergency Power Rules of 2007. He was jailed on extortion charges but it is thought that his arrest could be linked to his writings. Akash has been harassed on many occasions because of his investigative reporting. He was reportedly transferred to a prison hospital a few days after his arrest because of injuries he sustained from being beaten in custody. He was released on bail in late November 2007. Case closed for lack of further information.
*Md MUSLIMUDDIN: Correspondent for the Asamiya Pratidin and president of the Morajhar Press Club, was killed on 1 April 2008. Reportedly assaulted by a group of unknown people who attacked him with sharp weapons. He was died on his way to the Guwahati Medical hospital.
*Kumar KETKAR: Editor of the Marathi language daily Loksatta.
Ketar’s home was reportedly attacked by members of the Shiv Sangram political group on 5 June 2008, in the state of Maharashtra, western India. It is believed that the attack is linked to an editorial which criticized the building a 94 metre high statue. Ketkar and his wife were unharmed, but their home was badly damaged. The police have reportedly detained seven of the attackers.
Taslima NASRIN (f)
Profession: Bangladeshi feminist writer. Controversial Bangladeshi feminist writer Taslima Nasrin was held in a government safe house in Delhi after violent protests broke out by Muslim extremists in Kolkata, West Bengal, on 21 November 2007, where Ms Nasrin was living in
exile. Previous political imprisonment/problems: Novelist, poet and journalist Taslima Nasrin was publicly condemned to death in Bangladesh for ‘blasphemy’ and a reward given for her execution on 16 September 1993 by members of an armed militant Muslim group, due to her novel Lajja (Shame). Instead of condemning the calls for Nasrin’s murder, the Bangladesh authorities charged Nasrin, on 4 June 1994, with ‘deliberate and malicious intention of hurting the religious sentiments’ for an interview given to an Indian newspaper. Nasrin fled to Europe on 10 August 1994 and has since lived abroad. Her trial started in Dhaka on 10 December 1994 in absentia, and has remained pending hearing for several years. Her latest novels continue to be banned by the Bangladeshi authorities on the strength of their allegedly ‘anti-Islamic’ content. More than ten years since she fled Bangladesh, Nasrin still cannot return without fear for her security, and for the past three years she has lived in Kolkata, West Bengal, where she had applied for Indian citizenship. On 19 March 2008, Nasrin left India for Europe.
Honorary member of: Canadian, USA, American, French, Swedish, Swiss German, English, Austrian and Turkish PEN.
S.K AKHTAR, Irfaan KHAN, Vitusha OBEROI and M.K TAYAL:
Publisher, cartoonist and editors respectively of the Midday newspaper.
Sentenced to four months in prison on 21 September 2007 on charges of ‘contempt of court’. The sentence comes after the newspaper for which all four men work published a series of investigative reports and a cartoon criticising the rulings of a former Supreme Court judge which
benefited his sons. The sentence was appealed. Case closed for lack of
Killed: Motive unknown
*Khadim Hussain SHEIKH: Local bureau chief for the national Urdulanguage daily newspaper Khabrein, was reportedly shot dead in the province of Baluchistan, south-western of the country, on 14 April 2008. Sheikh’s brother reported that three men, each on a motorbike, carried out the shooting, checked to confirm if the journalist was dead and then left the scene. The motive for the murder is not known.
Javed LEHRI: Reporter for the daily Azadi based in Quetta. Also a
member of a Baloch student opposition party. Reportedly went missing
in the Khuzdar region of Balochistan province on 29 November 2007.
His family and colleagues believe the intelligence services are responsible for his disappearance. The Azadi is known for its critical reporting of the military’s operations in Balochistan. The police have denied any involvement, but it is said that the security services are holding hundreds of opposition members in Balochistan. No further information as of 30 June 2008.
Abdur Rahim MUSLIM DOST. Afghan national, poet and magazine
editor. Dost spent almost three years in US detention at Guantanamo Bay after being arrested with his younger brother in November 2001 by the Peshawar authorities then handed over to the US in February 2002. He was eventually released without charge on 20 April 2005 and returned to Pakistan. On 29 September 2006 he was again reportedly arrested in Peshawar by officers of the police Crime Investigation Department and an intelligence agency. Dost filed a habeas corpus petition on 5 October 2006 in the Peshawar High Court and the court subsequently requested information on his whereabouts from the the federal and provincial authorities. He has reportedly still not been charged with a criminal offence and has not been brought before a magistrate. It is thought his arrest may be linked to a book he had written about his experiences as a detainee in Guantanamo Bay. Reported to remain detained in Peshawar Central Jail as of 30 June 2008.
*Hameed BALOCH and Khalil KHOSA: Journalists for the Urdu language
Urdu language Baloch daily, went missing in Balochistan province, south-west of the country. On 29 February 2008, Khosa was last seen attending a news conference in the town of Nasirabad. There are reports that his disappearance could be linked to articles criticising some political parties who participated in the recent parliamentary elections. The Balochistan Union of Journalists (BUJ) reported that on 3 March 2008, Hameed Baloch was kidnapped in Taftan, near the Iranian border, and that his kidnap could be related to tribal rivalry or political parties. No further news as of 30 June 2008.
*Aoun SAHI: Reporter of the daily newspaper The News. Reportedly beaten by the police in the eastern province of Punjab on 5 February 2008. The attack occurred when he was travelling to Sialkot, and was stopped by the police. The journalist objected and showed his credentials, but was immediately taken to the Daska police station where policemen beat him using belts and iron bars. Later, the police chief of Sialkot suspended two officers and announced an investigation into the case.
Rehmat Shah AFRIDI
Profession: Editor-in-chief of the Peshawar-based English language
daily The Frontier Post and its Urdu sister-paper Maidan. Date of arrest:
2 April 1999 Sentence: Death, commuted to life imprisonment. Details of arrest: Reportedly arrested on drugs charges, after Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) officers allegedly found 21 kilograms of hashish in his car. He denies the charges and his colleagues believe his arrest to be politically motivated. Shortly before his arrest, Afridi had reportedly published two articles accusing officers of involvement in drug smuggling.
Afridi claims he is the victim of an ANF set-up. Details of trial: On 27 June 2001 Special Judge Syed Kazim Shamsi of the Anti Narcotics Court ruled in favour of a death sentence and a 1,000,000 Rs fine against him. The prosecution reportedly failed to produce any
compelling evidence against him. On 3 June 2004 the death sentence was commuted on appeal by the Lahore High Court and Afridi was instead sentenced to life imprisonment. His sentence was upheld by the Supreme Court on 6 April 2006. On 24 May 2008 Afridi was freed on parole by order of the Punjab’s Interior Ministry for good conduct in prison.
Other information: Father of Mahmood Afridi, managing editor of The Frontier Post charged in January 2001 with blasphemy.
*V. JASIKARAN and J. S. TISSAINAYAGAM: (aka
Balasubramanium Wasanthan): Tamil writer and owner of the EKwality printing works and journalist for the Sunday Times newspaper respectively. Reportedly arrested by the anti-terrorist police in Colombo on 6 January and 7 March 2008 respectively for allegedly receiving money from Tamil Tiger rebels. Some reports alleged that Jasikaran and Tissanayagam received funds via the http://outreachlk.wordpress.com/ website to help Tamil students. Reportedly badly beaten during the first day of their arrest. On 21 May 2008 it was reported that Tissainayagam was held in poor conditions and that he was suffering from a serious medical condition affecting his sight. On 11 June 2008 it was reported that a 90-day extension order was issued against J. S. Tissainayagam, and that he had limited access to his family, legal representation and information on his case. The court also denied the journalist’s request to be transferred
from the supervision of the Terrorist Investigation Division (TID)
into fiscal custody. V. Jasikaran also remains under detention at the TID as of end June 2008.
*Suhaib M. KASIM: Associate editor of the Tamil daily Thinakaran,
reportedly stabbed at his home in the capital city of Colombo on 28
January 2008. He was treated at the Colombo national hospital. The
editor had reportedly received death threats before the attack.
*Keith NOYAHR: Deputy editor and defence analyst of the weekly The Nation. Reportedly abducted on the evening on 22 May 2008 while
returning to his home, and suffered physical harm while in captivity. He returned home in the early hours of the following day, 23 May. It is
thought the attack could be linked to his reporting and political commentaries on the war in the north of the country.
*Munusami PARAMESHWARI (f): Journalist. Armed men broke into
Parmeshwari’s family home in Gampola, Kandy district, west of the
country, on 14 March 2008. Her father and sister were reportedly badly injured after being beaten with clubs. The family was warned by the group that if the journalist returned to Gampola, she would risk death.
The journalist is reportedly in hiding, after she received death threats.
Parameshwari was previously arrested on 24 November 2006 and held
under anti-terrorist legislation. She was released on 22 March 2007,
*Namal PERERA: Freelance journalist and deputy head of the Sri Lanka Press institute (SLPI). Reportedly attacked by four men who attempted to abduct him on 30 June 2008. It is believed that the attack was linked to Perera’s criticism of the government in its campaign against the Tamil rebels.
*Victor SOMAWEERA: Provincial journalist for Lankadeepa in
Bingiriya, west of the country, reportedly stabbed on 10 January 2008.
Thought to have been targeted for his reporting on illegal mining in the
area. On 20 January 2008, three suspects turned themselves to the police.
*Frederica JANSZ (f): Editor of the monthly magazine Montage, and
former editor of the Sunday Leader. Reportedly received a telephone
death threat on 14 June 2008. There are also reports that in early may she found a decapitated chicken in front of her office, and that a car was park outside her home on 28 May with its lights and engine on.
*S. Sivakumar (aka Balasubramanium Wasanthan): Editor of the bimonthly Tamil language Sarinihar magazine. Reportedly arrested on 8 March by Terrorist Investigation Department (TID) for alleged links to the Tamil Tigers. Reportedly released after twelve hours of questioning.
*Poddala JAYANTHA: Provincial news editor of the Sinhala-language
weekly Silumina. Reportedly received threats on 7 January 2008 when a group of people dressed in civilian clothes demanded entry to the journalist’s house at 3am, claiming that they were from the police. Jayantha’s wife immediately called for help. The group of men left. When this incident was reported to the police, they denied any involvement.
*Sirimevan KASTHURIARACHCHI: Senior defence reporter for the
newspaper Sinhala Divaina. Reportedly threatened by an unidentified group of people on 29 May 2008, who forcible entered the correspondent’s house and warned him to stop reporting on the Sri Lankan army.
*K. RUSHANGAN: Editor of the Tamil-language news websitehttp://www.inllanka.com/ and the Tamil journal Saamadana Nokku. Reportedly received a threatening phone call on 13 April 2008 from a person who named himself Ealaventhan, and who claimed to be a member of the rebel group the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LITTE).