Video Reveals Federal Agents Arresting Venezuelan Mayor for Conspiracy

Originally published on February 22, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Accused of conspiring to overthrow the Venezuelan government, the mayor of Caracas was arrested on Thursday when over a dozen intelligence agents stormed into his office without a warrant and fired warning shots into the air. Captured on surveillance footage, roughly a dozen agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service wearing bulletproof vests and brandishing assault rifles detained Mayor Antonio Ledezma and escorted him from his office while firing warning shots to scare off his staffers. Facing severe economic turmoil and increasing social unrest, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has been targeting military and political opponents charging them with sedition without providing direct evidence against the dissidents.

Mayor of Caracas since 2008, Ledezma had been working in his office on Thursday when roughly a dozen heavily armed intelligence agents entered the room to arrest him. While taking Ledezma into custody, officers reportedly struck the mayor and his wife, Mitzy.

“They arrested him savagely,” the mayor’s wife recalled. “They hit him.”

According to witnesses, police fired warning shots into the air when Ledezma’s staffers attempted to intervene. Surveillance cameras recorded the federal agents approaching the mayor’s office and escorting him out of the building. The agents processed Ledezma at the intelligence agency’s headquarters before transporting him to a military prison outside Caracas where other significant political opponents are currently detained.

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Saudi Government Imposes Sentence of 1,000 Lashes Against Activist Blogger

Originally published on January 11, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Fearing a resurgence of the 2011 Arab Spring upheaval, the government of Saudi Arabia began a series of 1,000 public lashings against an activist blogger for expressing freedom of speech and religion. Sentenced to 10 years in prison for insulting Islam, Raif Badawi must endure 50 lashes a week for 20 weeks and pay a fine of one million riyals (approximately $266,600). Although Saudi Arabia publicly condemned the recent attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, Saudi secret police regularly collude with the NSA to commit human rights abuses against activists and bloggers.

According to an eyewitness account, Badawi exited a police van in front of al-Jafali mosque in the coastal city of Jeddah just after midday on Friday. Escorted by eight or nine officers, Badawi stood in the middle of the crowded square handcuffed and shackled. An officer beat Badawi’s back and legs 50 times with a large cane. Badawi remained silent as his face contorted with anguish. After the flogging ended, the officers escorted Badawi back to the van and returned him to prison.

Detained since June 17, 2012, Badawi had initially been charged with apostasy, which carries the death penalty in Saudi Arabia, but a judge dismissed the charge. Accused of cybercrime and disobeying his father, Badawi was convicted of insulting Islam on a liberal online forum that he had created. The Saudi government shut down Badawi’s website and originally sentenced him to seven years and 600 lashes on July 29, 2013.

After reviewing an appeal on May 7, 2014, a judge extended Badawi’s sentence to ten years in prison, 1,000 lashes, a ban from using the internet, and a fine of one million riyals. Following his arrest, Badawi’s wife fled the country with their children and moved to Canada. In July, Badawi’s lawyer Waleed Abul-Khair was sentenced to 15 years in prison and barred from travelling for another 15 years after being convicted of inciting public opinion, insulting the judiciary, and undermining the regime and officials.

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23 Egyptian Activists Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Protesting

Originally published on October 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 young activists to three years in prison for protesting without a government permit on Sunday. Following the political turbulence of the Arab Spring and the downfall of President Morsi, Egypt has been aggressively prosecuting anyone caught practicing free speech or peaceful assembly in an attempt to silence dissent. Although the U.S. State Department has publicly condemned the court’s decision, President Obama continues to fund the new Egyptian government and its military.

On June 21, activists marched towards the presidential palace in Cairo protesting against Egypt’s draconian anti-protest law and the repeated incarceration of political blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, along with others. As they marched to the palace, the activists were attacked by several groups of men wearing civilian clothes. As security forces dispersed the crowd, they arrested 24 young activists including a child named Islam Tawfik Mohamed Hassan who faces trial in a juvenile court according to Amnesty International.

While buying water from a kiosk, Yara Sallam and her cousin were arrested along with the protesters. According to witnesses, Sallam and her cousin had not been participating in the demonstration. The following day, security forces released Sallam’s cousin, but kept Sallam in custody after discovering her occupation as a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. She has been convicted along with the protesters and sentenced to three years in prison. Amnesty International considers Sallam a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately.

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Stop Security Forces from Torturing and Unlawfully Killing Protesters

Originally published on September 16, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan

Goal: Investigate the murders and mistreatment of protestors by police

Burdened with a deteriorating economy and rising inflation, the Sudanese people have taken to the streets to voice their discontent. In response, police and other security forces have repeatedly used excessive and unnecessarily lethal force to suppress the masses. Operating with impunity, security forces have detained, tortured, and killed people attempting to practice free speech. The government of Sudan must investigate these human rights violations and actively prosecute the officers responsible for these crimes.

In a recent report, Amnesty International documented four Sudanese protests that occurred between 2012 and 2014. During the 2013 protests, at least 185 people were killed as police fired live ammunition at them. Most of the casualties had been shot in the head or chest, but many had been shot in the back. One of the wounded protesters had been shot in the head at point blank range.

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Demand Justice for Prisoner Tortured by Law Enforcement Officials

Originally published on August 22, 2014, at ForceChange.com

Target: King Mohammed VI of Morocco

Goal: Investigate the security forces responsible for torturing prisoners

Moroccan authorities detained a man for twelve days and tortured him in order to extract a confession from him. According to Amnesty International, the security forces severely beat the prisoner, gave him electric shocks, and burned him with a cigarette. Although the Moroccan government is reluctant to investigate the perpetrators of these crimes, they must launch an investigation into those guilty of committing torture.

Ali Aarrass was arrested and tortured for twelve days until he gave law enforcement officials a false confession to end the constant pain and suffering. To force a confession out of Ali, the security forces engaged in such harsh interrogation techniques as suspending him from the ceiling, whipping him, beating the soles of his feet, waterboarding him, electrocuting his testicles using a car battery, and burning him with cigarettes.

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Five Unarmed Black Men Killed by Police Within a Month

Originally published on August 20, 2014, at NationofChange.org

In less than a month, cops have been responsible for killing at least five unarmed black men. Police officials have confirmed Eric Garner, John Crawford, Ezell Ford, Dante Parker, and Michael Brown were not carrying lethal weapons when authorities executed them. As racial tensions continue to escalate in Ferguson, militarized law enforcement agencies show no signs of ending the violence.

On July 17, NYPD Officer Justin Damico accused Eric Garner, 43, of selling untaxed cigarettes. A witness recorded video footage of Garner arguing with Damico when Officer Daniel Pantaleo crept up behind Garner and placed him in a chokehold. Officers piled on top of Garner as he weakly repeated, “I can’t breathe.”

After releasing the chokehold, Pantaleo placed his knee on the back of Garner’s head pressing his face into the pavement. Garner died of cardiac arrest induced by Pantaleo’s chokehold. The NYPD banned the use of chokeholds in 1994 after an officer placed Anthony Baez in a chokehold resulting in his death.

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