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Alert: Libya – Human rights activists handed down heavy sentences

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12 human rights activists were handed down heavy sentences on 10 June 2008 for planning a peaceful demonstration.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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3 October 2008

Alert: Libya – Human rights activists handed down heavy sentences

Contents
1. Summary
2. Background
3. Action required
4. Sample letters


1. Summary

12 human rights activists were handed down heavy sentences on 10 June 2008 for planning a peaceful demonstration to protest against killing of several demonstrators who died due to clashes with police forces as they rallied against cartoons depicting Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in European newspapers. One of them, Idriss Boufayed, who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, is suffering from an advanced form of lung cancer.

IHRC requests campaigners to write to the Ambassador to Libya in their country and urge him/her to release the detained activists.


2. Background

Idriss Boufayed, Jamal el-Hajj and 10 other human rights activists were handed down heavy sentences on 10 June 2008. According to a report by Amnesty International (AI), they were arrested in February 2007, for plannuing a peaceful demonstration to mark the anniversary of the killing of twelve demonstrators and the injuring of tens of others in Benghazi. The demonstration in Benghazi had been held to protest against the depiction of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in cartoons in several European newspapers, as well as against the 'actions of an Italian government minister who appeared on Italian television wearing a T-shirt showing one of the cartoons.'

AI further reports that 'Boufayed, who was sentenced to 25 years imprisonment, suffers from an advanced form of lung cancer.' Boufayed is 'an outspoken critic of Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi and secretary general of the Libyan organisation National Union of Reform.'

All human rights activists have been charged with 'vaguely worded offences', such as "attempting to overthrow the political system," "spreading false rumours about the Libyan regime" and "communicating with enemy powers."

For further details about their case, please read AI's report* at:

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/MDE19/006/2008/en/025816d3-3866-11dd-a7d1-851179bc648e/mde190062008eng.html

http://www.amnesty.org/en/news-and-updates/feature-stories/one-year-missing-and-imprisoned-libya-20080222

[*IHRC is not responsible for the content of external websites, nor endorses them by providing their link.]


3. Action required

Please write to the Ambassador to Libya in your country and protest against the unjust sentences handed down to the human rights activists.

UK campaigners can write to:

Chargés d'Affaires Mr Omar R Jelban
The People's Bureau of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
15 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LY

Fax +44 207 245 0588


4. Sample letters
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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.

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1. Sample letter to Libyan Ambassador


[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

Chargés d'Affaires Mr Omar R Jelban
The People's Bureau of the Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
15 Knightsbridge
London SW1X 7LY

Dear Mr Omar R Jelban,

Re: Libyan human rights activists handed down heavy sentences

I am very concerned about 12 human rights activists who were handed down unjust sentences on 10 June 2008, for apparently no reason except that they chose to express their right to freedom of expression. They were arrested in February 2007 for planning a peaceful demonstration in Tripoli, to mark the anniversary of the killing of 12 demonstrators who died during clashes with the police while they were protesting against the depiction of Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) in cartoons in European newspapers.

According to reports that I read, these human rights activists were subjected to incommunicado detention, poor diet and insufficient medical care. Some were subjected to regular torture as well. The group went on hunger strike to protest against this mistreatment.

On 10 June 2008, they were convicted on vague charges such as "attempting to overthrow the political system," "spreading false rumours about the Libyan regime" and "communicating with enemy powers."

During the trial under the new state security court, the activists did not have the right to counsel except one detainee and were not allowed to contact their lawyers outside court.

I am especially concerned for one of them, Mr Idriss Boufayed, who has been sentenced to 25 years, and is suffering from an advanced form of lung cancer. According to reports, a medical committee established by the Ministry of Justice had determined that Mr Boufayed should be released on medical grounds. Further, another human rights activist, Mr Abdelrahman al-Qateewy, arrested with the others in February 2007, remains missing.

Your country is state party to International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and is thus obliged to respect the right to freedom of speech and association of its citizens. I therefore urge you to grant these individuals immediate release, as their lives are at grave risk. They have already suffered much during their detention. I urge you to ensure that all their rights are respected and that they are allowed to propagate their ideas peacefully.

Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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Holy Qur'an: Chapter 4, Verse 75

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