2016 CASE SUMMARIES
For 2017 Committee of Concerned Scientists
Case: Domingos Da Cruz, Professor of Law and Human Rights
Situation: Arrested on June 21, 2015 and charged with preparatory acts of rebellion and association with criminals (other activists who had been arrested the previous day). He was held for six months, released on house arrest for four months when the case came to trial and he was sentenced to 8.5 years
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote to the President of Angola requesting his release and explaining his right to peaceful expression of his opinion.
Status: The professor and his co-defendants were released in July 2016 pending a final decision on this case. CCS wrote again requesting that all charges be dropped.
Case: Taha al-Derazi, Neurosurgeon
Situation: Arrested and charged with “illegal gathering” for participating in a sit-in in Bahrain. He has, in the past, been subject to continual questioning and suspended from his job for his involvement in human rights issues. In May 2011, he was suspended from his position for giving medical care to protestors. In January 2012, he was forced to resign. He then set up a private medical practice. On June 10, 2016, he and his wife were banned from traveling out of the country. (He was scheduled to participate in a United Nations Human Rights Council session.)
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote to the King of Bahrain requesting his immediate release and questioning why he was arrested for providing medical care as he is obligated to do.
Status: Dr. al-Derazi was released from detention pending a hearing initially scheduled for August 28th, but was held on February 9th where he was given a six month suspended sentence.
Case: Khalil al-Halwachi, Engineer
Situation: Arrested in September 2014 and detained to date. Authorities came to his home, found a rifle which led to his being identified as a terrorist. His family says the gun was not his and was planted. His trial has been postponed 17 times over a two-year period. It is reported that he has failing health and had a recent stroke.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote to the King of Bahrain requesting a review of his confinement and a fair and speedy trial. CCS also wrote the Ambassador to Bahrain requesting that he have a representative present at the next hearing. Again, on March 21, 2017 CCS again wrote a letter to the King requesting that he review this case.
Status: Case has been scheduled for a hearing on October 20. The case was rescheduled multiple times following this date and on March 23, 2017 al-Halwachi was sentenced to 10 years in jail for possession of firearms and insulting the judiciary (attempting to read a letter to the judge in court).
Case: Dr. Ilham Tohti, Professor of Economics
Situation: Arrested on January 2014, prior to which he had been placed under house arrest with restricted travel. He was charged with “separatism,” a charge which Tohti denies. In September 2014 he had a two-day trial and was sentenced to life in prison, with all of his assets confiscated, leaving his family in severe economic distress. The charge is based on his teachings and non-violent expression of his opinion in regard to China’s minority Uighur community.
CCS’ Role: Since 2014, CCS along with other human rights groups, have advocated for his release and charges dropped. CCS has written many letters to the President of China over this period of time.
Status: In October 2016 Tohti was awarded The Martin Ennals Award, bestowed by 10 human rights organizations worldwide. The award recognizes Tohti’s courageous work in promoting minority rights between the Hans and Uighurs. It also highlights the Chinese government’s increasingly harsh punishment against its critics, says Maya Wang from Human Rights Watch.
Case: Li Heping and Wang Yu, Human Rights Attorneys
Situation: Both were detained (along with 288 other human rights lawyers) in July 2015. Li Heping was the attorney for Chen Guangcheng and Wang Yu was the attorney for Ilham Tohti, cases that CCS has worked on in the past. The attorneys were formally charged with subversion of state power – a charge that can lead to a life sentence.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the President of China requesting that he investigate these cases and arrange for their immediate release. Additionally, CCS wrote to the US Ambassador to China, Max Baucus, commending him for his support.
Status: In July 2016 the American Bar Association awarded their International Human Rights Award to Wang Yu. In August 2016, Wang Yu was released on bail after issuing a public (allegedly coerced) confession. It is reported that she is under close surveillance by the Chinese authorities at this time. Li Heping is still unaccounted for.
Case: Homa Hoodfar, Professor of Social Anthropology
Situation: A dual citizen of Canada and Iran, Dr. Hoodfar was visiting family in Iran and doing research on the political role of women in Iran. She was arrested in June 2016. Authorities are alleged to be concerned about her research and her “feminism.”
CCS’ Role: CCS, along with numerous other human rights organizations and government agencies, wrote to the President of Iran requesting to be informed of her status and demanding her immediate release.
Status: In September 2016 Dr. Hoodfar was released on “humanitarian” grounds with the aid of the government of Oman. She has returned to Canada.
Case: Omid Kokabee, Graduate Student in Physics at the University of Texas, Austin
Situation: Confined to prison in Iran since 2011 for refusing to work in Iran’s atomic energy agency. His charge is communicating with a hostile government, which he denies. Over the years, Kokabee’s health began to deteriorate and he was transferred to a public hospital in the community with 24-hour surveillance. In April 2016 tests indicated that Kokabee had severe kidney cancer that required immediate surgery. The surgery was performed in a specialized hospital for such illness.
CCS’ Role: CCS has been writing the President of Iran since 2012 requesting medical care for Kokabee, contact with his family on a regular basis and reconsideration of his case and sentence. CCS had requested that Iranian scientists write the government requesting his release. CCS has remained in touch with Kokabee’s family members.
Status: Kokabee was allowed to recover at home and to continue to obtain the care that he needed on a medical furlough. At the end of August 2016 Kokabee was granted parole.
Case: Narges Mohammadi, Physicist and Engineer
Situation: Initially arrested in 2011 for assembly and collusion against national security as a women’s rights advocate. She was arrested again in 2015 for participation in an assembly against the death penalty and for meeting with the European Union’s foreign policy chief while the EU official was visiting Iran. The meeting was set to discuss women’s rights.
CCS’ Role: CCS has written to the Ayatollah and the President of Iran requesting appropriate medical care and her immediate release.
Status: In June 2016 Narges was sentenced to 16 years in prison. CCS continues, along with other human rights groups, to write demanding her immediate release.
Case: Mohammad Hossein Rafiee-Fanood, Professor at Tehran University (retired)
Situation: Arrested in June 2015 without a court order or justification. This is the third time the professor was wrongfully detained. In January Rafiee was granted an appeal hearing. The Appeals Court upheld the lower court ruling. The EU responded to CCS’ letter indicating that though they have no official presence in Iran they would make every effort to monitor the case.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the President of Iran requesting a reinvestigation of Rafiee’s detention and immediate release, as well as access to legal counsel, his family and appropriate medical care. CCS staff is in touch with Rafiee’s family. CCS has also written the representative for the European Union in Belgium.
Status: In September 2016 Rafiee did receive medical care and had surgery to repair varicose veins. Following the surgery, he was granted a medical furlough. He is currently at home receiving the care he requires. Mohammad wrote a letter to CCS that will be shared at the Annual Meeting.
Case: Maati Monjib, Professor of History
Situation: Banned from travelling out of the country for a professional conference in Spain. In protest he began a hunger strike, became ill and was hospitalized. The ban was lifted, the hunger strike ended. He was charged with harming internal state security. His trial has been set and rescheduled three times.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the Prime Minister on two occasions requesting that the charges be dropped and that the travel ban be lifted
Status: The travel ban was lifted, but the charges, to the best of our knowledge, are still pending. Monjib is not confined.
Case: Junaid Hafeez, Adjunct Lecturer of English Literature and Fulbright Scholar
Situation: While confined in prison for “blasphemy,” his defense counsel received death threats, initially from the prosecutor in open court. The attorney eventually was killed when two assailants entered his law office and shot him. (Note: His new attorney’s request for a change of venue was denied.)
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote to the Prime Minister and President of Pakistan requesting that they pursue the perpetrators of such a heinous crime (the killing of the defense attorney.) CCS also requested that the charges be dropped, the case dismissed and that the defendant and his attorney be afforded some manner of safety. CCS contributed funds to assist in Hafeez’ defense.
Status: Junaid remains in jail in Pakistan awaiting trial. He has been confined for three years. His charges carry a possible death penalty. There has been little to no movement on this case.
Case: Jan Gross, Professor of History
Situation: A prominent Princeton-based Professor of History has been threatened with having his state honor, the Order of Merit, which he received in 1996, stripped from him by the Polish President. The Polish government is trying to deny the historical facts of its involvement in the holocaust. In August 2016 the Polish government passed a law allowing punishment for anyone convicted of using the term “Polish death camps.” This would allow for the punishment of Dr. Gross, as well as the rescinding of his medal.
CCS’ Role: In February CCS wrote a letter to the President of Poland requesting that it rescind any plans to punish Dr. Gross for his important work and to continue to allow the holocaust to be studied openly in Poland.
Status: To date, Dr. Gross has his medal and seems to be in no imminent danger of punishment.
Case: Raif Badawi, writer/blogger
Situation: Badawi was arrested in June 2012 and charged with insulting Islam and apostasy (a charge that was later dropped). Badawi hosted a website that featured content that was critical of religion. In July 2013, he was tried and convicted and sentenced to seven years in jail and 600 lashes. His case was sent to a different court for review where he received a sentence of 10 years in jail, 1,000 floggings and a fine of one million riyals. In 2015 Badawi was awarded the EU Parliament Sakharov Prize.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote multiple letters to the King requesting a review of the case and Badawi’s immediate release, the last being in October 2016.
Status: Floggings were suspended temporarily due to injuries from the first 50 but his spouse was notified that they would be resumed. On March 22, 2017, he was informed that he was to pay the fine (which amounts to approx. $267,000 USD).
Case: Turkish Academics/Scientists
Situation: In January 2016 a group of over 2000 academics from 90 Turkish universities signed a Peace Petition criticizing the military’s treatment of the Kurdish community. The government retaliated by encouraging schools to terminate the employment of those who signed the petition and began the process of filing criminal charges. These disturbing developments were overshadowed by the unprecedented crackdown on academics after the failed coup attempt in July 2016. Thousands of Turkish scientists were rounded up, allegedly as part of the coup attempt, and terminated from their positions, many were detained and some charged with criminal involvement with the coup. The situation in Turkey is very bad. Most deans have been terminated, universities have been closed or taken over by the Turkish government and many scientists and academics are not free to travel out of the country.
CCS’ Role: Initially, CCS wrote President Erdogan requesting that he reinstate the professors, drop all charges and further investigations in regard to those who signed the Peace Petition. CCS then provided an on-line petition for all scholars to sign, addressed to the Turkish Minister of Justice, demanding that all charges against academics be dropped. Over 3200 people world-wide signed the petition After a myriad of arrests of scientists and academics in Turkey, CCS wrote follow-up letters, posted a Call for Solidarity (sponsored by SAR), and posted a listing of all academics who had been arrested and/or terminated from their positions. CCS contributed to the fundraising project to assist in the living and legal expenses of the academics.
Status: There has been no promising movement on these cases and Turkey is not very amenable to requests from the United States at this time. The scientists and academics were not involved in the coup and yet more continue to be terminated, detained and/or arrested. There is currently a fundraising effort attempting to assist them with living and legal bills.
Case: Vedat Demir, Communications Scholar
Situation: Demir, a professor at Istanbul University was arrested, along with 30 other academics and charged with membership in “FETO”. He denies this allegation. Despite his denial of involvement in the coup, he has been accused of such.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the Minister of National Education requesting his immediate release and reinstatement at the University.
Status: Arrested and being held in prison.
Case: Şebnem Korur Fincanci, Professor and Head of the Department of Forensic Medicine at Istanbul University
Situation: On June 10, 2016, Fincanci, along with two prominent Turkish writers, Erol Önderoğlu and Ahmet Nesin, were arrested and charged with “terrorist propaganda”. The three were participating as “on-duty editor-in-chief” in support of the newspaper Özgür Gündem, a pro-Kurdish daily. The arrest appears to be part of an intense crackdown on basic human rights in Turkey, specifically the fundamental right to freedom of expression and freedom of the press. Dr. Fincanci was awarded the International Medical Peace Award by the International Rehabilitation Council of Torture Victims for her role in establishing the Istanbul Protocol, an international standard for investigating and documenting claims of torture.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the Minister of Justice requesting the immediate release of the three prisoners. CCS also requested that a member of the US Embassy be present.
Status: The three defendants were released on June 30th; however, the charges were not dropped. A hearing was scheduled for November 8th,. It was postponed and is now rescheduled, for the third time, for June 8th. CCS will request that a member of the US Embassy again be present.
Case: Serkan Golge, NASA Scientist
Situation: An Iranian citizen and a scientist employed in the space program at NASA, was arrested and charged with espionage following the failed coup attempt in Turkey.
CCS’ Role: CCS contacted the United States Embassy in Turkey inquiring about Golge. CCS was informed that the State Department is looking into the matter. CCS also wrote the Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, who was planning on visiting Turkey to request that he address the matter with President Erdogan. CCS, also, recently wrote the new US President requesting that he negotiate a release for Golge.
Status: The US State Department and the Turkish government are negotiating his release. Trial has been set for April 17th. Support groups are requesting that any scientists who are going to be in or near Turkey at that time and are willing to attend the trial do so.
UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
Case: Dr. Nasser bin Ghaith, Professor of Economics
Situation: In April 2011, bin Ghaith was detained for criticizing the government for failing to undertake certain political reforms. He had a closed-door trial that began on July 14, 2011, charged with being a threat to public security, undermining public order, insulting and opposing the government. In November 2011, he was sentenced to two years in jail. One day later he received a Presidential pardon and was released from prison. In August 2015, he was rearrested for criticizing Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. His trial was scheduled for June 28, 2016, rescheduled for 9/26/16 and then rescheduled for 10/17/16. Currently, his trial has taken place and a verdict is expected on March 29, 2017.
CCS’ Role: CCS has written both the Prime Minister and the President multiple times requesting his immediate and unconditional release, with the most recent letter sent on February 22, 2017.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Case: Sherry Chen, Chinese-American Hydrologist with NOAA
Situation: In October 2014, notified that she was being investigated by the Justice Department for spying for China. She was suspended from her position at NOAA at that time. Eventually, Chen was cleared and all charges against her were dropped, but she was not reinstated in her job and was eventually terminated for the very charges for which the FBI had cleared her.
CCS’ Role: CCS wrote the Under Secretary of Commerce requesting that she be reinstated into her position.
Status: 60-Minutes did a documentary on Chen’s situation. She has now filed a discrimination complaint against NOAA. A hearing is being held in Federal Court to review this case through the Federal Merit System’s Protection Board.