During 2015, the Committee of Concerned Scientists continued to advocate on behalf of scientists, academics, engineers and physicians. We wrote in concern for more than 21 individuals or groups of individuals, located in 11 countries. We generally addressed our letters to the heads of state, as well as to the country’s ambassadors, the United States ambassador for the particular jurisdiction, ministries or local authorities with jurisdiction over the case when we were able to identify them, and the representative of the United Nations, when appropriate. Additionally, letters were sent to United States officials both in the Executive and Legislative branches, if it seemed it might be helpful. In many cases we worked closely with other human rights organizations to increase our effectiveness. Although there were positive results in some cases, most continue to need support and, of course, the watchful eyes – and, if necessary, the repeated protests of our colleagues.
Dr. Abdul Jalil Al-Singace, Professor of Mechanical Engineering
Situation: Dr. Al-Singace was arrested and sent to jail for speaking out against Human Rights abuses in Bahrain. He was sentenced to life in prison. While there, Dr. Al-Singace began a hunger strike to protest prison conditions for himself and the other inmates.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the King of Bahrain requesting an investigation of the prison conditions and to assure proper healthcare for Al-Singace. CCS had written previously requesting a re-examination of his charges and sentence.
Dr. Masaud Jahromi, Chair of Ahlia University’s Computer Science Department
Situation: Bahrain revoked Dr. Jahromi’s citizenship on the grounds of terrorist activities and advocating for a regime change through illegal means. Jahromi denies both charges. He was sentenced to four months in prison in 2011 for participating in unauthorized rallies. The revocation of his citizenship was unexpected.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the King of Bahrain on several occasions requesting a review of the Jahromi case and reinstatement of his citizenship.
Current Situation: Jahromi has been released from jail, but his citizenship is still revoked, leaving him without a country and without the ability to obtain employment, travel, etc. CCS is still working with Jahromi’s family and other Human Rights Organizations to attempt help for Jahromi. We have been told that he will eventually be “dumped” in the UAE with no official identification documents.
Boris Weisfeiler, Professor of Mathematics (Disappeared)
Situation: Boris was hiking in Chile (30 years ago under the Pinochet regime) when he disappeared. The case of Boris Weisfeiler’s disappearance is under investigation in the Chilean Courts to determine what happened to him and who was responsible for his disappearance and fate.
CCS Involvement: Over the years, CCS has written the Chilean government requesting that they review the case as regards Human Rights abuses. Recently, at the request of the Weisfeiler family, we wrote again, requesting a review of the case.
Current Situation: The Minister of the Presidency responded to a recent CCS letter indicating that there will be further investigations of human rights abuses during the Pinochet period to include the Weisfeiler case.
Guo Yushan, Scholar
Situation: Guo was involved assisting in the escape of Chen Guangcheng in 2012. For his participation in this venture and his other human rights activities, Guo was detained in April 2014 for operating an illegal business (a think tank).
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the President of China requesting that he dismiss the charges as they had no basis in fact.
Current Situation: In September 2014 Guo was released.
Human Rights Attorneys – Wang Yu and Li Heping
Situation: Both attorneys were detained (along with 288 other human rights lawyers) and their whereabouts were undetermined. Li Heping was the attorney for Chen Guangcheng and Wang Yu was the attorney for Ilham Tohti, both cases that CCS had worked on in the past. No specific charges have been announced.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the President of China requesting that he investigate these cases and arrange for the immediate release if these attorneys.
Current Status: The police arrested the teenage son of Wang Yu, who is being held on house arrest. He recently tried to escape the country and was brought back by Chinese officials and remains on house arrest with his grandparents. Wang Yu and Li Heping have recently been charged with a serious crime of “subversion of state power” that could result in life imprisonment. The US Ambassador spoke out on behalf of the human rights attorneys who were arrested in China and requested their release. CCS wrote him praising his support. CCS also wrote the President of the United States and the Head of the United Nations when the President of China visited the US requesting that they broach the issue of these cases with him.
Professor Emad Shahin, Professor of Political Science at the American University of Cairo
Situation: Prof. Shahin was sentenced to death, in absentia, for espionage – conspiring to undermine Egypt’s national security. Shahin was involved in the disposition of Hosni Mubarek and the implementation of a democratic government under Muhammed Morsi (which was soon overthrown by the military).
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the President of Egypt requesting a reinvestigation of this case and to have the sentence set aside on the basis of due process.
Current Situation: The sentence stands but Shahin left the country before he could be arrested and is teaching in the United States.
Omid Kokabee, Graduate Student in Physics at the University of Texas, Austin
Situation: Kokabee has been confined to a prison in Iran since 2012 for refusing to work in Iran’s Atomic Energy agency. His charge is communicating with a hostile government and accepting funds illegally from a foreign government. He denies both of these charges.
CCS Involvement: CCS has been writing the presidents of Iran since 2012 requesting medical care for Kokabee, as he is quite ill, requesting that he receive visits from his family on a regular basis and a reconsideration of his case and sentence. CCS has requested that Iranian scientists write the government requesting his release. CCS has been in contact with members of Kokabee’s family and his attorney.
Current Situation: It appears that help from outside of the country was, at some points, less than useful and that Kokabee, has suffered retribution in prison as a result. The guards confiscated reading materials that his family brought to him, removed his nightlight that he used for reading and has told him to stop reading. Over the years, his health has been deteriorating. Most recently, his health became so poor that it required transfer to a public hospital so that he could receive adequate medical care. CCS has again requested his release so that he can obtain the medical care that he so desperately needs. CCS is working actively with several other human rights groups on Kokabee’s behalf.
Dr. Mohammad Hossein Rafiee Fanood, Retired Tehran University Professor
Situation: Rafiee was arrested for the third time, the latest being this past June. His arrest appeared capricious and Rafiee suspects it was related to his position on the Nuclear agreement between Iran and the I-5 countries. Hard-liners in Iran appeared to be upset with his support of the agreement.
CCS Involvement: CCS, again, wrote the President of Iran expressing our continued grave concern for the Professor and requesting his release, immediate access to counsel of his choosing and access to family and any necessary medical treatment.
Narges Mohammadi, Physicist and Engineer
Situation: Narges has been a peaceful advocate for women’s rights, an opponent of the death penalty and a human rights advocate. She has continually been detained for voicing her opinion. In 2011, after being arrested, she was released after three months due to a serious medical condition that caused muscular paralysis. In April 2014 she was arrested again for meeting with the European Union’s Foreign Policy Chief in regard to women’s rights. While incarcerated her medical situation deteriorated. She was hospitalized three times since May.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote to the President of Iran requesting her immediate release due to life threatening medical issues.
Imad al-Barghouthi, Astrophysicist and Professor at Al-Quds University
Situation: While traveling to a scientific conference in the UAE, Israeli authorities detained Dr. Barghouthi without charge, possibly based on his opposition to the Gaza operation.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the Prime Minister of Israel requesting an immediate order of release for Dr. Barghouthi or to bring charges against him.
Current Situation: When Barghouthi’s attorney presented CCS’ letter at the hearing appealing his detention, the court was so impressed that the judge ordered his immediate release.
Aleksander Kolchenko, Ecologist
Situation: Kolchenko, a Ukrainian citizen, was arrested in May and accused of terrorist attacks and membership in an anti-Russian organization. Kolchenko was tried in a military court in Russia.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the President of Russia requesting that Kolchenko be tried in the proper jurisdiction and a proper court, granting him due process and free expression.
Vladimir Golubev, Nuclear Scientist
Situation: Golubev was a former employee of the Russian Federal Nuclear Centre and has been accused by Russian Social Services of leaking state secrets, which turned out to be previously published materials in scientific outlets that he used for his presentation at a conference. He was taken to court, where the Judge released him. Investigators filed for a motion for detention stating he had violated the terms of his release.
CCS Involvement: CCs wrote the President of Russia requesting an investigation of the arrest and detention to determine if the charges had any basis in fact and to ensure his well-being pending release. CCS also requested he have access to his family and legal counsel.
Natalia Sharina, Librarian
Situation: Natalia Sharina was placed under house arrest for allegedly inciting hatred as the library housed books banned under Russian anti-extremism laws.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote to the President of Russia requesting that she be released immediately, all charges be dropped and all confiscated materials be returned to her.
Mohammad al-Qathani, Professor of Economics
Situation: al-Qathani founded a civil and political rights association that calls for Saudi Arabia to adhere to the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Following a 10-year travel ban imposed on al-Qathani, the Criminal Court convicted him of planting seeds of sedition, braking allegiance with the ruler, defaming the judiciary and turning international organizations against the Kingdom, for which he was sentence to a 10-year jail sentence.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the Minister of the Interior requesting a re-examination of these proceedings and to withdraw or set aside his jail sentence.
Raif Badawi, BloggerSituation: Badawi was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes (50 weekly for 20 weeks) for insulting Islam through electronic channels.
CCS Involvement: CCS posted a notice on its website requesting academics to speak out on behalf of Badawi requesting that such a barbaric sentence cease ad that there be a reversal of this process.
Current Situation: Several months ago, Badawi was awarded the PEN Pinner prize and a few days ago was awarded the European Parliament’s Sakharov Human Rights prize. Sadly, his wife has reported that she was informed that the floggings have been ordered to resume. However, they will not be done in public as initially instructed, but will be held inside the prison.
Professor Rennan Pekunlu, Professor of Astrophysics at Ege University
Situation: Pekunlu was arrested and sentenced to two years in jail for preventing students from entering his classes wearing headscarves, charges he disputes. Prosecutors are now threatening to add 10 years to the charges for additional students’ reporting the same situation. Pekunlu was dismissed from his position at the University. In 2012, he received a similar sentence that was suspended.
CCS Involvement: CCS requested a reinvestigation of this case and dismissal of the charges, for action that were lawful at the time they were taken. CCS also requested that he be reinstated in his job.
UNITED ARAB REPUBLIC
Andrew Ross, Professor at New York University
Situation: Ross was barred from boarding a plane bound for the UAE to do further research. He had written extensively about unfair labor practices in the Middle East. NYU and the UAE have an agreement to guarantee academic freedom.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the President of New York University querying what the University planned to do concerning the violation of their agreement guaranteeing academic freedom.
Sherry Chen, Hydrologist, United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Situation: Sherry Chen, a Chinese-American hydrologist was terminated from her position at NOAA after being suspected of being a spy for China found no grounds for charges.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote the Deputy Director of the National Weather Service at NOAA requesting that Ms. Chen be reinstated in her position as an hydrologist. To date, that has not happened.
Secretary Penny Pritzker (US Secretary of Commerce) and Kathryn Sullivan (US Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere and NOAA Administrator)
Situation: Congressman Lamar Smith was interfering with free scientific inquiry and threatening the budgetary allotments of NOAA if a study that he disagreed with on global warming was not withdrawn. He threatened the scientists with congressional subpoenas to seek their private communications as regards the study.
CCS Involvement: CCS wrote to Pritzker and Sullivan commending their position and protecting the work of their scientists.