KHADIJA ISMAYILOVA is an award-winning investigative reporter and a program host on Radio Azadlyg, the Azeri service of the U.S. government-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. She was arrested after she was summoned to the prosecutor’s office in the Azerbaijani capital, Baku, on 5 December, 2014.
Authorities charged Ismayilova with inciting a local man to commit suicide and ordered her to be imprisoned for two months pending an investigation into the case, news reports said.
In January 2015, a Baku court extended Ismayilova’s imprisonment for another two months; a few weeks later, the general prosecutor’s office amended the charges against her to include separate counts of embezzlement, illegal business, tax evasion, and abuse of power. If convicted, she could face up to 12 years in prison.
Ismayilova is known for her exposés of high-level government corruption, including her investigation into ties between President Ilham Aliyev’s family and some lucrative businesses. For years, Ismayilova also covered Azerbaijan’s grave human rights record.
Ismayilova is being held in the Kurdakhani pre-trial detention facility, according to a letter she wrote from behind bars that was published in February 2015 by The Washington Post. She was released from prison on 25 May, 2016.
Police arrested blogger and freelancer MOHAMED CHEIKH OULD MOHAMED in his home in the city of Nouadhibou, Mauritania, on 2 January, 2014, on charges of apostasy in connection with an article he wrote that was published on the news website Aqlame on 31 December, 2013.The article, called ‘Religion, religiosity and craftsmen,’ criticized Mauritania’s caste system, and said that followers of Islam interpreted the religion according to circumstance, Reuters reported.
Mohamed has frequently written articles for news websites that criticize Islamic religious beliefs and conservative practices in Mauritania. He was charged under Article 306 of the Mauritanian criminal code. If convicted, he could face the death penalty. The editor of Aqlame, Riad Ould Ahmed, took down the article from the website and issued a statement on 4 January, 2014, saying it had been posted accidentally.
On 11 January, 2014, Mohamed issued a statement from prison denying that he intended to insult the prophet.
Mohamed was convicted to death on apostasy charges on 25 December, 2014. On 21 April, 2016 his conviction was upheld by a Nouadhibou appeals court.The appeals court referred his case to Mauritania’s Supreme Court, which has the power to repeal the sentence, reports said. Under article 306 in the Mauritanian penal code, if the Supreme Court rules that a defendant is repentant, it can reduce the sentence to up to two years in jail and up to 60,000 Mauritanian ouguiya (US$172.93).
ESKINDER NEGA, a prominent online columnist and former publisher and editor of now-shuttered newspapers, was arrested by Ethiopian security forces on vague accusations of involvement in a terrorism plot. Eskinder’s arrest came only five days after he published a column on the U.S.-based news website EthioMedi. The column was critical of the government of Ethiopia for misusing the country’s sweeping anti-terrorism law to jail prominent journalists and dissident intellectuals.
In 2011, police detained Eskinder and threatened him in connection with his online columns that drew comparisons between the Egyptian uprising and Ethiopia’s 2005 pro-democracy protests, according to news reports. His coverage of the Ethiopian government’s repression of the 2005 protests landed him in jail for 17 months on anti-state charges at the time. After his release in 2007, authorities banned his newspapers and denied him licenses to start new titles.
Following Eskinder’s 2011 arrest, state television described him as a spy for ‘foreign forces’. Despite consistently proclaiming his innocence, Eskinder was ultimately convicted on the basis of a video of a public town hall meeting in which he discussed the possibility of a popular uprising in Ethiopia if the ruling party did not deliver democratic reform, according to reports.
In July 2012, a federal high court judge in Addis Ababa sentenced Eskinder to 18 years in prison.That same year, a U.N. panel found that Eskinder’s imprisonment was ‘a result of his peaceful exercise of the right to freedom of expression,’ according to a report published in April 2013.
In May 2013, Ethiopia’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal and upheld the sentence. Eskinder is being held at Kality Prison in Addis Ababa, with restricted visitation rights.
YUSUF RUZIMURADOV is a reporter for the Uzbeki opposition newspaper Erk. He is one of the two longest-imprisoned journalists worldwide, research from the Committee to Protect Journalists shows. He was jailed on anti-state charges after extradition from Ukraine.
In a September 2014 report on political prisoners in Uzbekistan, the international organization Human Rights Watch said that Ruzimuradov was being held in Tavaksay prison colony outside Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent. Human Rights Watch said that Ruzimuradov was due to be released in May 2014, but that authorities had extended his sentence for an undisclosed period because of unspecified violations of prison rules.
Ruzimuradov was first detained in Ukraine along with another Uzbek journalist, Muhammad Bekjanov. At the time, Ruzimuradov and Bekjanov lived in exile and produced the newspaper Erk; Bekjanov was the editor of the paper and Ruzimuradov reported for it. Both were extradited from Ukraine at the request of Uzbek authorities.
In September 1999, a Tashkent court convicted both Ruzimuradov and Bekjanov on charges of publishing and distributing a banned newspaper. Both were also convicted of participating in a banned political protest and attempting to overthrow the regime.
Both men were tortured before their trial began, according to CPJ sources and news reports. After the verdict was announced in November 1999, the two were jailed in high-security penal colonies for individuals convicted of serious crimes.
On 24 November, 2014, eight U.S. senators sent a public letter to President Islam Karimov, calling on him to release Ruzimuradov and Bekjanov on humanitarian grounds.
ILHAM TOHTI is a Uighur scholar, writer, and blogger. He was taken from his home by police on January 15, 2014, and the Uighurbiz website he founded, also known as UighurOnline, was closed. The site, which Tohti started in 2006, was published in Chinese and Uighur, and focused on social issues.
Tohti was charged with separatism by Urumqi police on 20 February, 2014. On 23 September, 2014, at the Urumqi Intermediate People’s Court, Tohti was sentenced to life imprisonment. He denied the charges.
Tohti’s appeal request was rejected at a hearing in a Xinjiang detention center on 21 November that was scheduled at such short notice that his lawyer was unable to attend. He has asked to be moved to a Beijing prison to be nearer his wife and children, his lawyer told The Washington Post.
ABOU ZEID, a freelance photographer, was detained while covering clashes between Egyptian security forces and supporters of ousted President Mohamed Morsi during the dispersal of the pro-Morsi sit-in at Rabaa Al-Adawiya in Cairo, according to news reports.
Abou Zeid has contributed to the U.K.-based citizen journalism site and photo agency Demotix and the digital media company Corbis. After his detention, Demotix sent a letter to the Egyptian authorities confirming that Abou Zeid had been covering the clashes for the agency, the photographer’s brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ. Abou Zeid was first detained by police and held in Cairo stadium with other protesters and foreign correspondents who were released the same day.
In September 2013, the Egyptian general prosecutor’s office extended the journalist’s pre-trial detention, accusing him of weapons possession, illegal assembly, murder, and attempted murder, the journalist’s brother, Mohamed Abou Zeid, told CPJ. The same allegations were levied against hundreds of protesters detained during the clashes. As of February 2015, no official charges had been filed against him. Human rights groups said Abou Zeid’s health had deteriorated in prison.
On 14 May, 2015, Abou Zeid appeared before a judge for the first time since his arrest. The judge ordered him to speak about his case and renewed his pretrial detention, according to the Freedom for Shawkan campaign.The journalist, whose lawyer was not in court, told the judge about his arrest and denied the allegations against him.
Abou Zeid has been diagnosed with hepatitis C, and his lawyer and his campaign say that his health is deteriorating in prison. He was scheduled to appear in court on 21 July 2016, according to news reports.