Chelsea Manning and other political prisoners: Report from Internet Freedom Festival

3 April 2017

For international women’s day, some human rights and technology groups threw a benefit party for Chelsea Manning in Valencia, Spain as part of the annual Internet Freedom Festival. Chelsea Manning is an important activist in internet freedom for using the online platform Wikileaks to inform the world about classified US documents revealing corruption and civilian casualties. She was recently pardoned for blowing the whistle in 2010 on the Iraq War, which then ended in 2011. “We had been thinking about doing a benefit party at the IFF and when news broke of Chelsea’s pardon by Obama, we knew she had to be the beneficiary,” said co-organiser Gillo Cutrupi.

The party’s hosts are organisations who contributed to organising and supporting the party: Amnesty International, eQualitie, Derechos Digitales, Courage Found, Aspiration Tech, and APC. United by our stance that Chelsea, and all whistleblowers and truth tellers, are critical in this digital age of hyper-secrecy and disinformation. IFF attendees agreed. The party gathered more than 200 people, who donated what they could for Chelsea’s cause. Leila Nachawati from APC introduced the event, held at a local music venue near the central market in Valencia:

To thank everyone, Chelsea’s campaign coordinator, Chase Strangio said, “In a time of escalating repression and violence across the United States, Chelsea Manning’s upcoming release from custody is a bright spot of hope and energizing inspiration for many, particularly her long time supporters. As Chelsea prepares to build a life in the free world, it is our job as her friends and supporters to make sure she has the tools to survive. Benefits like this that will help her transition out of prison give her hope and will ensure that she can participate with us in the many and long fights ahead. Thank you all for your commitment. Chelsea is a hero to so many and it is a gift to be able to truly give support to her freedom and survival.”

In a time of escalating repression and violence across the United States, Chelsea Manning’s upcoming release from custody is a bright spot of hope and energizing inspiration for many, particularly her long time supporters. As Chelsea prepares to build a life in the free world, it is our job as her friends and supporters to make sure she has the tools to survive. Chelsea is a hero to so many and it is a gift to be able to truly give support to her freedom and survival.

Funds that were raised went directly to Chelsea, into her official Welcome Home fund. We also raised awareness of the ongoing campaigns of political prisoners and whistleblowers from around the world. There are several other cases, that organisers of the event felt that we could not ignore, of freedm of expression activists who are currently facing court hearings and jail time.

Madeeha Abdalla
On 13 January, Madeeha Abdalla, the editor-in-chief of Al-Midan, was charged by Sudan’s National Intelligence and Security Services (NISS) with crimes against the state for her rejection of pre-publication censorship and its coverage of banned political movements in Sudan. She is currently embroiled in court battles over the many charges brought against her by the National Intelligence Security Service of Sudan. https://www.apc.org/en/pubs/apc-stands-solidarity-sudanese-journalists-a…

Alaa Abd El Fattah
In November 2013, Egyptian pro-democracy activist and blogger Alaa Abd El Fattah was arrested. In June 2014 he received a prison sentence of 5 years for organising without a permit a public demonstration criticising the constitutional stipulations on the military trials of civilians.

LuxLeaks
Luxembourg Leaks is a collaborative investigation by dozens of reporters that exposes for the first time on a global scale how Luxembourg works as a tax haven in the middle of Europe. In January 2016, Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet, French whistleblowers were given jail sentences and fines. The verdict of their appeal will be handed down in March 2017.

Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh
In October 2016, blogger and human rights defender Nguyen Ngoc Nhu Quynh was arrested by Vietnamese authorities and charged with ‘conducting anti-state propaganda’, facing up to 20 years in prison. She is being detained while state authorities investigate her human rights work.

Huang Q
After years of harassment by Chinese authorities for his journalism, in November 2016, human rights defender Huang Qi was forcibly taken from his home by city police. He has not been heard from since he was arrested, and his whereabouts remain unknown.

Tep Vanny
Land rights activist Tep Vanny was imprisoned in 2012 along with other 13 women who campaign for environmental justice for residents near a lake in Cambodia. Tep Vanny remains in pre-trial detention after her bail request was denied on 25 January 2017.

Nabeel Rajab
In June 2016, Bahraini authorities arrested free expression defender Nabeel Rajab on charges related to his journalism on torture in Bahrain’s Jau Prison and the escalating humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani
In March 2013, professor and human rights defender Mohammed Fahad al-Qahtani was sentenced to ten years imprisonment and a further ten-year travel ban after being convicted of several charges relating to undermining the Saudi Kingdom. He is serving his term at the al-Ha’ir prison in Riyadh.

People often refer to the Internet Freedom Festival as a community rather than an event. An event like this supports that view and shows that together as activists we must work today to ensure we’re all around for “the many and long fights ahead.” Please share information about the eight cases above on social media to raise awareness. Follow the links to learn and do more for them.
You can donate online to Chelsea’s Welcome Home fund here: https://www.gofundme.com/welcomehomechelsea

An event like Internet Freedom Festival shows that together as activists we must work today to ensure we’re all around for the many and long fights ahead.

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