Azerbaijani rights defender charged with high treason

AZERBAIJAN LEYLA YUNISAzerbaijani human rights defender Leyla Yunus has been charged with “high treason, tax evasion, illegal entrepreneurship, forged documentation and fraud, reports Meydan TV. She has also been given three months of pre-trial detention, according to Azerbaijani journalist Khadija Ismayilova.

Her husband Arif Yunus is reportedly facing two charges; state betrayal and fraud, Index on Censorship reports.

Yunus has been shouting truth to power in Azerbaijan for years, earning a reputation as the conscience of her country, RFE/RL’s Robert Coalson and Ilkin Mammadov report:

The authorities seem bent on playing hard ball in this case. A lengthy statement by the prosecutor’s office tries to connect the Yunuses with Armenia’s secret services and accuses them of providing detailed military information relating to the simmering dispute over Azerbaijan’s breakaway ethnic-Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

“The charges filed against the Yunus’s are outrageous,” said U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (MD) and Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04), co-chairmen of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe. “Both Leyla and Arif are long-time supporters of people-to-people contact with Armenia, and the charge of espionage against them is absurd. We urge the Government of Azerbaijan to drop the charges and to stop the coordinated campaign aimed at the opposition, civil society and journalists in Azerbaijan who are peacefully exercising their right to freedom of speech and freedom of association.”

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention:

Please write to the authorities in Azerbaijan, urging them to:

i.Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov as well as of all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan; 

ii.      Immediately and unconditionally release Ms. Leyla Yunus from pre-trial detention and Mr. Yunusov from house arrest, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;

iii.     Remove all travel restrictions placed upon Ms. Leyla Yunus and Mr. Arif Yunusov;

iv.     Put an end to any kind of harassment – including at the judicial and investigatory levels – against Ms. Leyla Yunus, Mr. Arif Yunusov, her relatives and more generally against all human rights defenders in Azerbaijan;

v.       Conform with the provisions of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on December 9, 1998, especially:

-Article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

-Article 5, which underscores the right of every individual to form, join, and participate in non-governmental organizations; and

-Article 12.2, which provides that the State shall “take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of his or her rights”;

vi.     Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Azerbaijan.

Addresses:

Mr. Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Office of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 19 Istiqlaliyyat St., Baku AZ1066, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 25, (+994) 412 92 28 68, E-mail: office@pa.gov.az, office@apparat.gov.az

Mr. Zakir Garalov, Prosecutor General of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Prosecutor’s Office, 7 Nigar Rafibeyli St., Baku, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 492 06 82, (+994) 12 492 26 63, E-mail: z.qaralov@prosecutor.gov.az, info@prosecutor.gov.az

Mr. Eldar Mahmudov, Minister of National Security, Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Parliament Avenue 14, Baku AZ1006, Azerbaijan, Fax: (+994) 12 493-76-22, E-mail: cpr@mns.gov.az

Mr. Ramil Usubov, Minister of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Azerbaijani Republic, Fax: (+994) 12 492 45 90

Mr. Elmar MammadyarovMinister of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, E-mail: katiblik@mfa.gov.az

Mr. Fikrat F. Mammadov, Minister of Justice in Azerbaijan, Inshaatchilar Prospekti, 1 Baku, Azerbaijan, e-mail: contact@justice.gov.az; Fax (+994) 12 430 09 81

H.E. Mr. Murad N. Najafbayli, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Azerbaijan to the United Nations in Geneva, Route des Fayards 237, CH-1290 Versoix, Switzerland, Fax: (+41) 22 901 18 44, E-mail: geneva@mission.mfa.gov.az

Embassy of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Avenue Moliere 464, 1050 Brussels, Belgium, Fax: (+32) 2 345 91 85

Please also write to the diplomatic missions or embassies of Azerbaijan in your respective country as well as to the EU diplomatic missions or embassies in Azerbaijan.

Amid growing dissent, Cuba takes repressive turn

cuba perezPolitical dissent is one the rise in Cuba, says a leading expert.

“If by dissent one means people who are out on the streets demanding a change in the political regime, there’s a lot more than there used to be in the 1980s and 1970s, but there’s not a lot,” according to Harvard University’s Jorge Dominguez. “If by dissent one means they disagree with the policies of the Cuban government on topic x, y, or z and are prepared to say so, that actually happens now with increasing regularity,” he told CNN’s Global Public Square.

Today, Cuban democracy leader, Yris Perez Aguilera, wife of former political prisoner, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez “Antunez,” was received by U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) below, Capitol Hill Cubans reports:

The president of Cuba’s Rosa Parks Civil Rights Movement had a clear message for the Congressional Black Caucus.

“They should look closely at Cuba’s Council of State, and see how many black Cubans they find there,” Perez said:

A quick glance at the pictures of Cuba’s top government body on their own website reveals that only eight out of 31 are black, and there’s only one black Cuban in the top echelon constituted by seven vice presidents and President Raul Castro.

While racial figures are hard to come by, mainly because Castro’s own figures distort the island’s ethnic makeup (its latest claim that the black population was 10 percent and the white population 65 percent is risible), visitors report that the population that is black or mixed is now a majority. The Economist put it this way in 2008: “Mr Castro’s Cuba is a sad place. Although the population is now mainly black or mulatto and young, its rulers form a mainly white gerontocracy.”

“Around 75 percent of the people in prison are black,” said Perez. “Black Cubans have no rights.”cuba perez 2

Perez would like to meet with members of the CBC while she’s here in Washington to explain to them Cuba’s realities. ….

“While I was languishing in prison, they paraded around Havana. My sister tried to deliver a petition asking them to come and visit me. They didn’t even accept it,” said Perez, who’s married to Cuba’s best known dissident, Jorge Luís García Perez, known as Antúnez and also as Cuba’s Nelson Mandela. Jorge Perez also constantly suffers imprisonment and beatings at the hands of the regime.

Eight years after General Raul Castro took the reigns as Cuba’s dictator-in-chief due to his older brother Fidel’s illness, he is portrayed by those seeking to normalize relations with Cuba as a reformer,’ but, the facts tell a different story, writes Mauricio Claver-Carone:

If eight years ago, we would have predicted that the Cuban regime under Raul Castro would be resuming military-intelligence gathering operations with Russia at the Lourdes Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) facility near Havana – we would have been dismissed as “Cold Warriors.”

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would be caught red-handed smuggling 240 tons of weapons to North Korea – the largest weapons cache discovered since U.N. Security Council sanctions towards the Kim regime were enacted – we would have been derided as instigators.

If we would have predicted that the Cuban regime would wrest political and operational control of the most resource-rich nation in Latin America, Venezuela; that it would undermine that nation’s democratic institutions; and direct a campaign of repression that would result in the arrest, torture and murder of innocent student protesters – we would have been mocked as delusional.

If we would have predicted that repression would rise dramatically in Cuba under Raul Castro; that political arrests would at least triple; that opposition activists Orlando Zapata Tamayo, Juan Wilfredo Soto and Wilmar Villar would be murdered; and democracy leaders Laura Pollan of The Ladies in White and Oswaldo Paya of the Christian Liberation Movement would die under mysterious circumstances – we would have been accused of exaggerating.

RTWT

Payá family launches new plebiscite initiative in Cuba

 

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02On the second anniversary of the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá, his daughter, Rosa María Payá, has announced that the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) he founded is preparing a campaign to demand a plebiscite on the island’s future, the Miami Herald reports:

Rosa Maria Payá said that the plebiscite, based on her father’s Varela Project, would include “one single question: Do you want to participate in free and multi-party elections?”

The Varela Project gathered more than 10,000 signatures on a petition seeking a new electoral law and demanding the right to freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of association, among other measures. The signatures were rejected by the legislative National Assembly in 2002 but later that year Payá won the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Conscience, the most prestigious prize awarded by the European Union.

His daughter told El Nuevo Herald on Tuesday that since the Varela Project remains alive, “it is not necessary to collect more signatures. More than double the number required already have been handed in, even though the National Assembly has not responded to the demand.

“But the Varela Project is a citizens’ effort. Our intention with this (new) campaign is to mobilize citizens to demand their rights,” she added. “There can be no transition in Cuba unless first there’s a recognition of civil rights, of freedom of expression, of freedom of association to carry out the change we want.”

HT: Babablu blog.

China’s labor movement, 5 years after Tonghua

chinalaborbulletinFive years ago today, Chen Guojun, a senior manager at the Tonghua Iron and Steel Works in Jilin was killed during a protest by workers angry at the takeover of the plant by the Jianlong Group, at the time China’s largest privately-owned steel company, which Chen represented, China Labour Bulletin reports.

The “Tonghua Incident” became one of the most talked about events of the year. It focused attention on the volatile state of labour relations in many workplaces in China and the need to find a more effective and peaceful way of resolving labour disputes.

But while government officials, policy makers and commentators were debating the issue, China’s workers themselves were showing everyone the way forward.

A lot has changed in China’s workplaces over the last five years, and it is the workers’ movement that has been largely responsible for generating that change. China’s workers have shown that they are not rabble-rousers: They are determined to stand up for what is rightfully theirs but crucially they are also willing to sit down with management and work out their differences in peaceful, face-to-face negotiations – as was shown just this week in the Shenzhen QLT factory strike.

RTWT

China Labour Bulletin is supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.

Payá’s death in Cuba still awaits investigation

cubaPayá_&_Cepero_II_Aniversario_SMALL_02Two years ago Tuesday, a blue rental car was wrecked off a deserted road in eastern Cuba. In the back seat was Oswaldo Payá, one of Cuba’s best-known dissidents, who had championed the idea of a democratic referendum on the nation’s future, the Washington Post reports:

He received threats by phone and other warnings, some violent. But he did not give up. On the day of the crash, Mr. Payá was traveling with a young associate, Harold Cepero, across the island to meet with supporters of the Christian Liberation Movement. In the front of the rental car was a visitor from Spain, Ángel Carromero, a leader of the youth wing of that country’s ruling party, and one from Sweden.

The car spun out of control after being rammed from behind by a vehicle bearing state license plates, according to Mr. Carromero. While he and the associate from Sweden survived, Mr. Payá and Mr. Cepero were killed. Mr. Carromero says he was then coerced to confess and subjected to a rigged trial in order to cover up what really happened. Mr. Carromero’s videotaped “confession,” broadcast on television, was forced upon him; he was told to read from cards written by the state security officers. He was sentenced to four years in prison for vehicular homicide and later released to return to Spain to serve out his term.

Since then, there has been no serious, credible investigation of the deaths. Cuba has brushed aside all demands for an international probe that would reveal the truth. Mr. Payá held dual Cuban and Spanish citizenship, but Spain has been shamefully uninterested in getting to the bottom of the story.

“The truth matters — to show the Castro brothers that they cannot snuff out a voice of freedom with such absolute impunity,” the Post adds. “The values that Mr. Payá fought for in Cuba must not be forgotten. Other dissidents are still struggling, despite crackdowns, beatings, jailings and persecution, and they must not be forsaken. “

cuba carrameroA UN Watch meeting this week heard testimony from Ángel Carromero (left), the driver in the suspicious crash, and Cuban dissident and poet Regis Iglesias.

“The accident took place two years ago and the family hasn’t had any access to the autopsy,” said Carromero.

After the panelists gave their testimony, representatives from the Cuban and Venezuelan government responded by screaming wild accusations of corruption at them and UN Watch.

The Venezuelan delegate said, “We have the greatest amount of oil; you [the United States] have the greatest empire and you are trying to take our resources.” In response to Ms. Lopez’s condemnation of the inhumane treatment of her jailed nephew, the Venezuelan insisted that he was “protected by all constitutional and legal rights.” VIDEO

The Cuban representative screamed accusations at the panelists and UN Watch: “This is clearly a program of the United States to undermine Cuba, and they have given these speakers money to participate,” said the furious representative, who ended his speech by loudly leading a walk-out of the North Korean, Syrian and other allied delegates who showed up at the UN Watch event. VIDEO