December 19, 2014

Highlights of 2012 Cases

This year, we have helped academics, human rights activists, scientists and physicians in eight countries. Here is a summary of our work. Our more detailed Annual Report will be released in February.

BAHRAIN

The High Court of Appeals of Bahrain on September 4, upheld a life sentence in jail for Dr. Abdul Jail Al-Singace, a professor of mechanical engineering who has taught at the University of Bahrain since 1995 and is a leader of the democratic opposition. CCS wrote to the Attorney General of Bahrain in protest against a conviction that appeared to be based solely on Al-Singace’s reporting on human rights abuses in Bahrain. Lawyers involved in the appeals process had criticized its secrecy and lack of due process. We had written on behalf of Dr. Al-Singace to the Prime Minister of Bahrain several times before (September 10, 2012, March 24, 2011, and August 8, 2012). We were and remain concerned with his access to medical care that is especially important because he is partially paralyzed and wheelchair bound.

Dr. Masaud Jahromi, Chairman of the Department of Telecommunication Engineering at Ahlia University’s College of Mathematical Sciences and Information Technology, was arrested on April 14, 2011 and charged with “participation in an unauthorized rally.” He was released on bail in September, pending his trial on January 19, 2012, when the charges against him were dismissed. The court nevertheless imposed a prison sentence (already served) and a fine, all of which he protested. He remained suspended from the University. Good news: with the assistance of Advisory Board member Jack Minker, who mobilized the computer science community, Jahromi was finally reinstated to his former position.

For following their ethical duty to treat injured protesters in the spring of 2011, 82 nurses and doctors were arrested and disappeared, in clear violation of international treaties and customs. International outcry, including letters from CCS, followed. Bahrain’s Attorney General vacated rulings of the military courts against these medical professionals and ordered them tried in civilian courts. While many of the defendants were acquitted in those second trials, nine health care professionals were convicted of felony charges. The international health care community continues to be concerned by lack of due process evidenced by those charges, especially failure to exclude evidence obtained under torture. Our latest letter in this case publicly urged President Obama to exert more pressure on Bahrain, an American ally, to dismiss all charges.

CHINA

We wrote to Representatives of the Fifth Plenary Session of the Eleventh National People’s Congress and Committee Members of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference on March 8, 2012, supporting the request of The Tiananmen Mothers, family members of victims of the violent suppression of peaceful protests in June of 1989, asking members of the Congress and of the Conference to open a dialogue with the Tiananmen Mothers to resolve the issues raised by those events. The letter requests Chinese authorities to investigate the events of 1989, resolve each case under the law, and pursue accountability for those responsible.

We urged Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to grant asylum to Chen Guangcheng, a self-taught lawyer who had defended Chinese families forced to undergo unlawful sterilizations or abortions, who had sought asylum in the US Embassy in Beijing. Chen had been imprisoned on trumped up charges for four years and held as a prisoner in his home without charge or sentence for 19 months. Good news: Chen was granted asylum and is studying law at New York University Law School.

CUBA

CCS publicly expressed shock and sadness at the death of Wilmar Villar Mendoza, a 31-year old human rights activist, who was beaten and arrested following a public peaceful protest on November 14, 2011. Villar was sentenced to four years in prison. He began a hunger strike in the Prison of Aguadores on November 25, 2011 to protest the false accusations that led to his incarceration and died on January 18, 2012 after organ failure. We reiterated our concern about Cuba’s continuing actions in violation of the human rights of its citizens and of their freedom from cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment in jail.

IRAN

On his return to his native Iran last winter, Omid Kokabee, a graduate student in optics at the University of Texas, was arrested and accused of “communicating with a hostile government” and of “illegitimate earnings.” CCS wrote an open letter in the magazine Nature to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamene’i requesting Kokabee’s release. CCS assured the Iranian authorities that Omid Kokabee’s professors and fellow students all confirm that he was dedicated to his studies and refrained from engaging in politics. Kokabee was recently sentenced to 10 years in jail for “communicating with a hostile government,” after a group trial of 10 or 15 people. While the other accused had confessed under pressure on Iranian television, Kokabee has steadfastly denied all charges since he was first imprisoned. We recently transmitted a petition, signed by 450 students and academics around the world, urging a pardon for Kokabee.

We wrote in grave concern for Professor Abdolreza Ghanbari who had completed a PhD in Persian language and literature and taught this subject. We understand that his only political activity was to belong to a trade union that had been dissolved in 2007. Ghanbari was sentenced to death on January 30, 2010 on charges of “enmity against God” for allegedly participating in protests on the holiday of Ashura in December 2009. We further understand that the Tehran Appeals Court upheld Professor Ghanbari’s death sentence in April 2010 and the Commission of Justice in Tehran rejected his request for pardon on February 28, 2012. Ghanbari’s lawyer, Nasrin Sotoudeh, is serving a six-year prison sentence and unable to defend him. We have no further information about Ghanbari’s fate.

According to an August 21, 2012 press release by the US Department of State, 36 Iranian universities have banned Iranian women students from 77 critical fields of study. These include nuclear physics, computer science, electrical engineering, industrial engineering and business management. We wrote to Iranian authorities asking them to rescind this decree excluding women – who constitute a majority of all University students in Iran – from educational opportunities as well as from employment in the fields covered by the decree, solely on the basis of their gender.

RUSSIA

On June 20, 2012, Drs. Svytoslav Bobyshev and Yevgeny Afanasyev, professors at Baltic State Technical University in St. Petersburg, were sentenced to 12 years in jail in a trial held behind closed doors for spying and passing state secrets to Chinese intelligence officers concerning Russia’s Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile. The professors have denied the charges and plan to appeal their sentence. These accusations stem from a cooperative relationship between Baltic State Technical University and Harbin Engineering University in China, which allowed the professors to give lectures at the Chinese university. According to the Russian Committee for the Defense of Scientists, they are victims of “spy mania.” CCS wrote to Russian authorities to protest Bobychev and Afansyev’s two-year pretrial detention and closed-door trial as contravening international standards of due process, fair trial and detention.

SUDAN

According to Amnesty International, Mohammed Salah Mohammed was arrested in Khartoum, a few days after he joined peaceful protests in June of 2012. A student at the University of Khartoum’s Faculty of Science, Mohammed is the spokesperson of the Student Democratic Front at the university and the President of the Nubians’ regional student association. CCS wrote in concern that he was being held without charge and at serious risk of torture and ill treatment, according to Amnesty and to reports from family members who visited him in jail. Mohammed is in particular danger because he suffers from chronic kidney disease and requires medical attention. Good news: Mohammed was released on August 10, 2012.

TURKEY

Dr. Halil Kemal Gürüz, a chemical engineer, education administrator, retired professor, and former university rector, was arrested for his supposed role in the 1997 alleged conspiracy against Turkey’s first Islamic-led government, although he was already out on bail based on 2009 charges of involvement in the same conspiracy. On September 2, 2012, we learned from Professor Gürüz’ family members that he had suffered chest pains in his prison cell. He was transferred to intensive care in a hospital and an angiography was performed for blockage of one of his arteries. He is now back in prison. We wrote expressing deep concern that continued imprisonment presents serious threats to a man of his age and condition.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

Dr. Cyril Karabus, a former professor of pediatrics and eminent South African pediatrician and oncologist, was arrested on August 18, 2012 while in transit in Dubai from Canada to South Africa. He was charged with the death of a child on whom he operated ten years ago at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical Center in Abu Dhabi. The pediatric cancer patient Dr. Karabus treated later died of leukemia. Although an initial conviction of Dr. Karabus, on manslaughter charges about which he was never notified, has been overturned, he will now be tried again on the same charges. We strongly urged UAR authorities to remedy this evident miscarriage of justice in the case of Dr. Karabus. Good News: On Oct. 11, Dr. Karabus who is 78 years old and depends on a pacemaker for his heart, was released on bail pending trial.