Mens et Manus in Prison
ESG Seminar (SP274):

Political Prisoners:
Personalities, Principles, & Politics

Political Prisoners in the Mass Media: A Survey, 1976-2002

Here is a small selection of news articles, opinion pieces, and book reviews you may find interesting.

Chile, 2002
More Errors in Chilean Army Report on Slain Political Prisoners
EFE News Service, February 3

Santiago, Feb 2 — The recent discovery of the skeletal remains of 300 people buried on a military base reveals new errors in the information on abuses during the Pinochet regime that the Chilean armed forces supplied to the government, judicial spokesmen disclosed Saturday. In a preliminary identification by Judge Amanda Valdovinos and family members of the disappeared, the remains were identified as those of Palace chief Enrique Huerta, sociologist Claudio Jimeno and presidential bodyguard Domingo Blanco.  ...  [more]

Ukraine, 2001
Tents Will Support Political Prisoners
Eastern Economist Daily, May 10

Kyiv will see a new tent camp after Victory Day, announced Stepan Khmara, head of the newly-established committee for support to political prisoners. Khmara added that protesters will stage a hunger strike in behalf of prisoners detained during mass demonstrations in Kyiv on March 9.  ...  [more]

Turkey, 2001
Political Prisoners Protest State Terror in Turkey
In These Times, March 19

Four days of fierce fighting left 32 people dead and many injured when heavily armed Turkish police and military units stormed 20 jails across the country in late December. The police action was launched to quell a two-month-old hunger strike by more than 1,000 political prisoners, most of whom were incarcerated simply for belonging to organizations that criticized Turkey's military-dominated government.  ...  [more]

Burma, 2000
Two Burmese Comics Imprisoned for Spreading "False News"
New Statesman, September 11

[...] U Pa Pa Lay and U Lu Zaw belong to an Anyeint troupe called Myo Win Mar, or Our Own Way. Anyeint is a Burmese performance genre that blends classical dance and music with skits and satire. The tradition dwindled after Myanmar's State Law and Order Restoration Council (now called the State Peace and Development Council) seized power in 1988, but latterly it has been revived by a celebrated Burmese comic called Zargana, who has also done time for cracking jokes during Anyeint shows. On 4 January 1996, the 48th anniversary of Myanmar's independence, Our Own Way performed for 2,000 members of Myanmar's opposition party, the National League for Democracy, at the Yangon (Rangoon) home of the NLD leader and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past decade in prison or under house arrest, since the government ignored an NLD election victory in 1990. Our Own Way sang songs about the generals, satirised state repression and told gags about government co-operatives: "In the past, thieves were called thieves. Now they are known as co-operative workers."  ...  [more]

Northern Ireland, 2000
Today the Last of Ulster's 428 Political Prisoners Are Released
Guardian, July 28

[...] It is the culmination of the early release scheme of the Good Friday agreement, the two-year cut-off point at which all qualifying prisoners yet to benefit from the handsome increases in remission are free to go. Only 15 inmates will be left behind and the Maze, once home to 1,700, will close shortly. Today marks the biggest one-day exodus from the Maze, 10 miles west of Belfast, and marks a fulcrum in the peace process. And it will be the most painful moment of all for victims' relatives as the atrocities involved are still so recent. The scheme has released 428 convicted terrorists ahead of schedule, 143 of whom were life-sentence prisoners. Those freed will include 192 loyalists and 226 republicans, such as Sean Kelly, 26, the IRA bomber who murdered nine with the Shankill Road bomb, and Torrens Knight, 30, Ulster Freedom Fighter and murderer of 11.  ...  [more]

Russia, 2000
New Kremlin Regime Takes Its "First Political Prisoner"
Guardian, June 15

[...] Wheeling and dealing his way to a colossal fortune during the past decade through the real estate business, banking, and the building of Russia's only independent media empire, Vladimir Gusinsky seems an unlikely candidate for political martyrdom.  ...  [more]

Indonesia, 1999
Ban on Political Prisoners Voting, but Not Rapists
South China Morning Post, June 8

[...] For the jailed chairman of the People's Democratic Party (PRD), Budiman Sudjatmiko, not being allowed to cast a ballot was intensely frustrating. As a prisoner serving 13 years for subversion, Sudjatmiko could only walk in circles as thieves and rapists cast their ballots.  ...  [more]

South Korea, 1999
Brutal Face of Seoul Shown in Political Prisoners' Suffering
The Times, February 26

WHEN Woo Yong Gak left prison yesterday [after 41 years] he left behind a world of almost complete isolation in a 12ft-square cell, where he was denied human contact and information of any sort. [...] The South Korean Government did everything it could to make him — and hundreds of others — recant their communist beliefs. From the 1950s to the 1970s, that meant conditions of unimaginable harshness. Despite the bitter winters, the cramped cells were not heated and prisoners were subjected to beatings. Photographs smuggled out in the 1970s showed trussed inmates beaten to a pulp if they did not renounce their beliefs. Thousands, like Mr Woo, never did, and many of them died unknown even to human rights groups. One of Mr Woo's first acts was to thank Amnesty International for bringing the fate of political prisoners to outside attention. [...] Mr Woo hopes to go back to see his wife and son in North Korea. But there is little likelihood that they are alive. The relations of anyone who is politically suspect or an inconvenience are usually executed.  ...  [more]

Singapore, 1998
The Nation's Last Political Prisoner Speaks Out
Asiaweek, December 11

He had spent more than 22 years in jail — much of it in solitary confinement — and nine and a half more under orders limiting where he could live and travel, what he could say and do, with whom he could associate. He was never charged with a crime, or brought to trial. On Nov. 27, without warning, the government lifted the remaining restrictions on former opposition MP Chia Thye Poh, 57, some 32 years after his arrest and detention under draconian internal security laws.  ...  [more]

Nigeria, 1998
Abiola To Relinquish Claim To Nigeria Presidency
Jet, July 20

Nigeria's new military ruler, Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar, recently agreed to free all of the country's estimated 250 political prisoners, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan said. Former presidential candidate Moshood Abiola, the country's most prominent prisoner, indicated that he will relinquish his claim to Nigeria's presidency when he is released along with the nation's other political prisoners, according to the Chicago Tribune.  ...  [more]

New research on World War II, published 1990
Red Cross Double Standard
Jerusalem Post, Monday, October 8

RECENT RESEARCH by Swiss and Israeli historians has confirmed that the leadership of the International Committee of the Red Cross during World War II knew of the Nazi atrocities against the Jews by 1942 but chose to remain "neutral," neither protesting against them, nor even publicizing them. In the face of ample evidence, the ICRC rejected suggestions that it issue even the limpest of statements, to the effect that "certain categories of civil persons" were being persecuted and "even threatened with death," fearing that such criticism would anger the Germans. As late as 1944, the ICRC mounted a ferocious struggle to prevent its own officials in Hungary from working to save the Jewish community there - on the grounds that the Jews were "political prisoners" of the states in which they lived and therefore not protected by international law or the organization's charter.  ...  [more]

United States, 1990
Noriega Rebuffs Court, Tells Judge That US Holds Him Illegally
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, January 5

Miami — Fallen Panamanian dictator Manuel Antonio Noriega told a federal judge on Thursday that he was a political prisoner. He refused to enter a plea to charges he took $4.6 million to turn his nation into a way station for the cocaine trade. Noriega, dressed in olive-green trousers and a khaki uniform shirt with a general's four stars on the epaulets, looked calm and poised as his attorneys argued that the U.S. invasion of Panama had broken international law. "General Noriega refuses to submit to the jurisdiction of this court . . . because he is a political prisoner brought to this country illegally," Frank Rubino, Noriega's attorney, told U.S. District Judge William Hoeveler. He said Noriega "was a head of state and immune to prosecution." He also charged that the 12-count drug trafficking indictment against Noriega was politically motivated.  ...  [more]

East Germany, 1983
Political Prisoners for Sale
Newsweek, August 29

The ritual is always the same. East German police round up a group of political prisoners at the State Security prison in Karl-Marx-Stadt and march them into a bus. They drive to a deserted crossing along the border with West Germany. There, the guards leave, a new driver puts on West German license plates and the bus rolls on to Western soil. Within a short time, the passengers have been transformed from prisoners of conscience to free citizens ransomed by the government in Bonn. Every year, West Germany spends an average of $5 million to buy the freedom of some 1,000 East German political prisoners. The practice continued for two decades, though officials have been unwilling to talk about it.  ...  [more]

South Africa, 1983
BOOK REVIEW: Robben Island
Foreign Affairs, Summer

Since the whole country of South Africa is in a sense a prison for its blacks, the horrors of Robben Island must go far to outdo the reader's expectations; the wretched physical conditions and the enthusiasm of the prison wardens for inflicting pain soon numb our sensibilities. What is most interesting in this tale (told by an Indian member of the African National Congress to an exiled South African lawyer and ANC member) is the way in which the political prisoners, through a series of hunger and sit-down strikes, gradually impress their humanity upon their jailers; significantly, they find that these actions, together with external international pressures, produce a discernible improvement in prison conditions.  ...  [more]

United States, 1978
U. S. Political Prisoners?
Newsweek, July 31

Are there political prisoners in the U. S.? During the trial of Soviet dissident Anatoly Shcharansky, United Nations Ambassador Andrew Young whipped up a controversy when he told a French newspaper that there are "hundreds, maybe thousands, of people I would categorize as political prisoners" in the U. S. Young later said he did not mean to equate political freedom in the U. S. and the Soviet Union. But he did not retract his statement about the number of U. S. political prisoners — even though he never said exactly what he meant.  ...  [more]

Chile & the USSR, 1976
Santa Brezhnev, Santa Pinochet
The Economist, December 25

When two countries which loathe each other's political systems, and whose political systems are about as bad as each other's, decide to exchange Christmas presents, purse your lips. When those presents consist of two of the most important political prisoners each country holds, let out a low whistle. The release to the west from Soviet imprisonment on December 19th of Vladimir Bukovsky in exchange for Chile's imprisoned Communist leader, Luis Corvalan, is one of the most spectacular diplomatic coups of recent years.  ...  [more]

Last modified on Sunday, February 10, 2002 at 2:17:24 PM EST