Hong Kong’s top court has overturned the conviction of an activist who tried to stage a Tiananmen Square vigil last year, finding police acted unlawfully.
Lawyer Chow Hang-tung – who was jailed in January – will remain in custody as she faces two other charges under the city’s national security law.
But she won her appeal against her “unauthorised assembly” conviction on Wednesday,
A judge ruled the police hadn’t properly justified the vigil’s ban.
Hong Kong authorities have cited Covid restrictions as the reason for its ban on Tiananmen vigils since 2020.
The city used to be one of the only sites on Chinese territory where authorities allowed tributes.
Ms Chow was arrested in June 2021 for “inciting” the public to take part in that year’s vigil. She had led the Hong Kong Alliance, a group which had organised the annual demonstrations and that year she posted articles on social media and on news sites urging Hong Kongers to turn out or light a candle in tribute.
At her trial in January this year, she was jailed for encouraging the assembly in breach of Covid laws.
Magistrate Amy Chan said she had been “self righteous” in “completely disregarding the law to think that the freedom of assembly was more important than public health”.
However a High Court judge on Wednesday found police had not properly explored the options for how the demonstration could have gone ahead in a Covid-safe manner.
In a joint letter to the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Lawyers for Lawyers and the International Observatory for Lawyers have expressed their concern about the pre-trial detention and house arrest of lawyer Elchin Sadigov.
On 10 September 2022, Mr. Sadigov was arrested together with the journalist Mr. Avaz Zeynalli and charged with “complicity in bribe taking”. At the time of his arrest, Mr. Sadigov represented Rasim Mammadov, a prominent businessman in Azerbaijan accused of embezzlement. Mr. Sadigov is suspected of being involved as an intermediary. Since Mr. Sadigov is currently under house arrest and could be sentenced to 12 years in jail, he is restricted in his ability to practice law.
Furthermore, we are concerned that Mr. Sadigov’s right on a fair trial is violated. On the day of his arrest, the Prosecutor’s General’s Office searched his home and office, where they confiscated documents and his mobile phone. International human rights law protects the confidentiality of lawyers-client communications as well as the privacy of attorneys’ records as an element of the right to a fair trial.
In the joint letter, we call upon the authorities of Azerbaijan to drop all charges against Mr. Sadigov unless credible evidence is presented in proceedings that respect fair trial guarantees and put an end to all acts of harassment against Elchin Sadigov, including at the judicial level. We further urge that all lawyers in Azerbaijan must be able to carry out their legitimate professional activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions.
Letters sent by the group, which represents barristers, reportedly accused them of bypassing defendants’ instructing firms and collecting remuneration directly from the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
The Hong Kong Bar Association has asked barristers who received remuneration from a now-defunct protester relief fund to submit written explanations over suspected professional misconduct, Oriental Daily and Sing Tao reported.
According to its report on Tuesday, the association has sent letters to some 35 barristers since June 27.
The letters reportedly list court cases related to the 2019 protests which were handled by the lawyers in question. The barristers stand accused of violating the profession’s Code of Conduct by bypassing solicitors representing defendants and collecting remuneration directly from the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund.
Sing Tao quoted sources as saying all the barristers concerned had practised for less than five years. Some had allegedly received HK$3,000 to HK$6,000 per day spent in court from the fund, while claiming they worked pro bono – without charge.
The association told HKFP a probe was underway: “We are not in a position to respond or comment on the updates or details in the investigation before it is concluded,” they said in a statement on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, 7 June 2022, the European Parliament adopted 2021 Report on Turkey by 448 votes in favour, 67 against and 107 abstentions. MEPs warn that in spite of Turkey’s repeated statements that it aims to become an EU member, over the past two years the country has consistently gone back on its commitments in relation to the accession process.
The report points to the continued deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey. MEPs regret the sustained legal and administrative pressure on civil society and human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.
The European Parliament particularly condemned continuing crackdown on lawyers. MEP said:
the Parliament “is appalled by reports of a pattern of persecution of lawyers representing individuals accused of terrorism whereby the lawyers were prosecuted for the same crime as that attributed to their client, or a related crime, in a context where this constituted a clear obstacle to the enjoyment of the right to a fair trial and access to justice.”
Turkish civil rights activist and philanthropist Osman Kavala was jailed for life without parole on Monday in a long-running case that sparked a diplomatic crisis and highlighted fears for the rule of law.
The 64-year-old, who has been held in prison for 4½ years, was found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government in connection with mass protests that broke out in 2013 and a failed coup three years later.
In a verdict greeted with boos and jeers, seven other defendants were sentenced to 18 years imprisonment at Istanbul’s Caglayan courthouse. The seven other defendants were civil rights activists Mucella Yapici, Can Atalay, Tayfun Kahraman, Ali Hakan Altinay, Yigit Ali Ekmekci, Cigdem Mater and Mine Ozerden
The trial of Henri Barkey, a US-based professor at Lehigh University, and seven other defendants will be continued in a separate case, the court ruled.
Many raised their fists in salute in a show of defiance and promised to continue their struggle. “We will not bow to persecution. We will resist persecution,” said defendant Can Atalay.
Rights groups condemned the outcome of a case they had already criticized as unfounded and unjust.
“Today, we have witnessed a travesty of justice of spectacular proportions,” said Nils Muiznieks, Europe director at Amnesty International, of the “politically motivated charade.”
He added, “The court’s decision defies all logic. The prosecuting authorities have repeatedly failed to provide any evidence that substantiates the baseless charges of attempting to overthrow the government.
“This unjust verdict shows that the Gezi trial was only an attempt to silence independent voices.”
Emma Sinclair-Webb, Europe director at Human Rights Watch, described the conclusion of the “show trial” as “horrifying, cruel and evil.”
In its 2001 annual review, Peace Brigades International noted: “The situation of human rights defenders [in Mexico] worsened significantly after the 19 October assassination of internationally known human rights defender Digna Ochoa and death threats against other human rights defenders.”
That PBI report further noted: “One of the cases that Digna Ochoa had been working on implicated the army in human rights abuses against environmental activists campaigning against logging in Guerrero.”
In it, Emiliana Cerezo Contreras says: “In 2001 my brothers were accused of putting bombs in several offices of the National Bank of Mexico, Banamex. Through some friends, my brother Alejandro got in contact with Pilar Noriega and Digna Ochoa, two lawyers who took on their cases. That is how the Cerezo Committee was created.”
Democracy Now! has also reported: “Ochoa worked on behalf of peasant ecologists in the state of Guerrero, Zapatista guerrillas in Chiapas and indigenous peoples in her home state of Veracruz. At the time of her death, she was defending three men charged with bombing banks in Mexico City to protest against globalization.”
Lawyer’s Rights Watch Canada adds: “She represented many cases involving allegations of torture or murder by Mexico’s military and security forces, including the widows of the Aguas Blancas massacre and the campesino ecologists Rodolfo Montiel and Teodoro Cabrera. Montiel and Cabrera, who received the Goldman award for their work in forcing Boise Cascade to stop clear-cutting in the southern state of Guerrero, were sentenced to imprisonment on drug and weapons charges that Ochoa claimed were fabricated. Digna exposed the use of torture by the army to extract confessions from the environmentalists.”
Now, La Jornada reports: “The Inter-American Court of Human Rights [IACHR] found Mexico responsible for serious failures in the investigation into the death of human rights defender Digna Ochoa on 19 October 2001.”
That article adds: “Therefore, it ordered the Mexican state to reopen the investigations of the case in pertinent terms; investigate and eventually prosecute those possibly responsible for his death; carry out a public act of international responsibility and create a recognition in the defense of human rights that will bear the name ‘Digna Ochoa y Plácido’.”
Reuters also reports: “The Mexican government committed serious errors in the investigation of the death of the activist Digna Ochoa two decades ago and must continue with the probe, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) said on Wednesday [January 19].”
“Ochoa, who received death threats before her body was found with gunshot wounds in October 2001, was a lawyer who defended cases of human rights violations allegedly committed by civilian and military security forces.”
Des avocats ont manifesté, jeudi 21 octobre 2021, leur soutien à leur confrère Seïf Eddine Makhlouf.
Les avocats, durant une vidéo publiée à la même date par l’avocate Ines Harath, se sont regroupés sur les marches extérieurs du tribunal de première instance de Tunis.
Ils ont demandé la libération de Seïf Eddine Makhlouf mais appelé aussi à l’abolition de la comparution de civils devant les tribunaux militaires.
Pour rappel, Seïf Eddine Makhlouf a été arrêté le 27 septembre 2021. Il a fait l’objet de deux mandats de dépôt émis par le tribunal militaire dans l’affaire de l’aéroport et pour menaces et outrage à magistrat. Il a entamé une grève de la faim le jeudi 14 octobre 2021.
European Union legislators have urged the United Arab Emirates to free several prominent human rights activists and other “peaceful dissidents” imprisoned in the country.
In a strongly worded resolution passed on Thursday, the EU Parliament condemned alleged rights violations in the wealthy Gulf state and demanded the “immediate” and unconditional release of Ahmed Mansoor, Mohammed al-Roken and Nasser bin Ghaith.
The resolution was approved with a sizeable majority, winning the support of 383 legislators. Just 47 legislators opposed the text, while 259 abstained from the vote.
Mansoor, 52, was arrested in 2017 and later sentenced to 10 years in prison on charges of publishing false information and “insulting the status and prestige of the UAE”, including in posts on social media platforms.
Global rights group Amnesty International has designated the activist, who has allegedly been held in solitary confinement since his arrest, as a “prisoner of conscience”.
Al-Roken, a human rights lawyer, is also considered a “prisoner of conscience” by Amnesty.
The 58-year-old is currently serving a 10-year prison sentence after being found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government in a July 2013 mass trial that saw scores of other defendants convicted.
Bin Ghaith, an economist and academic, was also imprisoned for 10 years in March 2017 over a series of social media posts deemed to be critical of UAE authorities.
Call for Expo boycott
The EU Parliament resolution called for “all other human rights defenders, political activists and peaceful dissidents” detained in the country to be freed.
It urged EU member states to boycott the Expo 2020 world fair in Dubai, “in order to signal their disapproval of the human rights violations in the UAE”, recommending they “withdraw their sponsorship”.
Hejaaz Hizbullah, a prominent Sri Lankan lawyer, was arrested on 14 April 2020 and has since been detained on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA). Hejaaz Hizbullah has been targeted for his work, and his advocacy for the rights of Muslim minorities in the country. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released and all charges against him dropped.
TAKE ACTION: WRITE AN APPEAL IN YOUR OWN WORDS OR USE THIS MODEL LETTER
Attorney General Sanjay Rajaratnam Attorney General’s Department Hulftsdorp Street, Colombo 12 Sri Lanka Fax: +94 112 436421 Email: email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Attorney General,
I am deeply concerned about the prolonged detention of Sri Lankan lawyer and minority and civic rights activist Hejaaz Hizbullah. Detained since 14 April 2020 on trumped-up charges under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (PTA), no credible evidence of wrongdoing has yet been presented before a court.
It is distressing to learn that, since his arrest, Hejaaz Hizbullah has been repeatedly denied due process safeguards recognized by international law. He has been held in prolonged administrative detention without judicial oversight to monitor his wellbeing, without access to bail. While in police custody he was prevented from accessing his legal counsel in private until an order was made by the Court of Appeal. Even following his indictment in February 2021 and being moved to judicial remand, access to family and counsel has been restricted.
An increasing number of Belarusian attorneys have seen their law licenses removed for trying to defend opposition figures.
Sitting in her car and talking via an encrypted video link on her smartphone from Minsk, disbarred lawyer Liudmila Kazak said her life and work as a legal defender for Belarusian opposition figures is more like fiction than real life.
“The situation really is like you’re reading a book,” Kazak said, speaking in Russian through a translator, in an interview with Courthouse News. “This book is about how there is a sort of state dictatorship in this country.”
Kazak is among a growing number of lawyers who are getting barred from practicing law in Belarus. In a new report, the American Bar Association said the disbarments appear to be part of a “larger pattern of retaliation by the Belarus government against lawyers for representing political opposition members and protesters and speaking out about the rule of law and human rights in Belarus.”
The dystopian book in which Kazak has found herself is part of is the same one captivating some 10 million Belarusians as their nation becomes ever more isolated from the rest of the world under President Alexander Lukashenko.
A Soviet-style leader whose office teetered on the verge of collapse eight months ago in the face of massive street protests, Lukashenko has held onto power while keeping a tight grip on politicians, journalists, students, everyday citizens, activists and lawyers.
This crackdown reached a new low on Sunday when Belarus forced a Ryanair passenger flight passing through its airspace to land in Minsk, where authorities promptly arrested Roman Protasevich, a prominent 26-year-old opposition journalist and activist aboard the plane. This incident sparked international condemnation, and the European Union blocked air travel to and from the country.