The Dominican Republic's President Luis Abinador announced Feb. 27 that work will begin this year on a wall along the country's 376-kilometer border with Haiti. "Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we've suffered from for two years," said Abinader. Two weeks earlier, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against "the wave of illegal migration" and to "reinforce border security and vigilance." (AFP)
Hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets and blocked intersections in Dhaka on March 1 to protest the death of a writer and commentator in prison, who had been charged under Bangladesh's controversial Digital Security Act (DSA). The deceased, popular author and blogger Mushtaq Ahmed, had been arrested last May after posting comments on social media in which he criticized the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At least 10 others were also charged with sedition under the DSA that month, including political cartoonist Kabir Kishore, who remains imprisoned. At a court hearing last month, Kishore passed a note to his brother stating that he had been physically abused in prison, resulting in severe injuries. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is demanding his release, and that the claim of maltreatment be investigated.
Li Qiaochu, a feminist, labor researcher, and human rights defender who has especially advocated for the rights of migrant workers in China, is being held incommunicado following her arrest for "subversion of state power." Li was detained Feb. 6 in Beijing, where she lives, and taken to Linyi city in Shandong province, where her partner and fellow human rights defender Xu Zhiyong is also detained and facing the same charge. Li's detention follows her disclosure of Xu's torture and mistreatment in detention. On Feb. 19, Li's lawyer formally requested that the Linyi Municipal Public Security Bureau grant access to her, and was told she is being held in quarantine at a local hospital. She is apparently to be transferred to the Linyi Municipal Detention Center once the quarantine is completed.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo Feb. 18 with "temporary guidelines for...enforcement and removal operations" by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE), giving ICE agents discretion on enforcement actions and essentially overturning the "100-day pause on certain removals" instated by President Biden's executive order of Jan. 20, his first day on office. Naureen Shah, senior policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), responded to the move in a statement: "The memo is a disappointing step backward from the Biden administration's earlier commitments to fully break from the harmful deportation policies of both the Trump and Obama presidencies. While the Biden administration rightly acknowledges that immigrants are our family members, our coworkers, and our neighbors, for now it has chosen to continue giving ICE officers significant discretion to conduct operations that harm our communities and tear families apart."
Turkey's Court of Cassation on Feb. 19 upheld the two-and-a-half-year prison sentence given to Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu, a human rights activist and MP belonging to the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), on charges of "making propaganda for a terrorist organization." In 2016, Gergerlioğlu raised alarm in parliament and on social media platforms about detained women being subjected to unlawful strip searches by police in the city of Uşak for "security reasons." He was later accused by the Uşak Police and several members of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP) of being involved in terrorist activities. Gergerlioğlu was initially sentenced by the Kocaeli 2nd High Criminal Court in February 2018, and the decision was affirmed on appeal by the Istanbul Regional Court of Justice. Following this, an appeal was made to the Court of Cassation.
The arrest of Catalan rapper Pablo Hasél on charges of glorifying terrorism and insulting the monarchy has sparked angry protests in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other Spanish cities. Facing charges in relation to his tweets and song lyrics, Hasél barricaded himself alongside supporters inside Catalonia's University of Lleida on Feb. 16. His supporters sprayed fire-extinguishers at troops when the building was raided later that day by the Catalan police force, the Mossos d'Esquadra. As he was led away, supporters shouted, "They will never silence us; death to the fascist state!" Hasél was turned over to Spanish authorities to begin serving a nine-month term. Angry protests immediately broke out, with several demonstrators arrested that night. Protests have continued throughout the week.
The 23rd High Criminal Court of Istanbul on Feb. 15 sentenced four former employees of the pro-Kurdish daily newspaper Özgür Gündem, shut down by a Turkish court order in 2016, to imprisonment on "terrorism" charges. Former editor Eren Keskin, who is also a prominent lawyer and human rights advocate, received a six-year sentence for "membership of an armed terrorist organization." Özgür Gündem's former publisher, Kemal Sancılı, and former managing editor, İnan Kızılkaya, received sentences of six years and three months on the same charge. Former editor-in-chief Zana Kaya was sentenced to two years and one month for "making propaganda for a terrorist organization."
Saudi women's rights activist Loujain al-Hathloul was released Feb. 10 after spending a total of 1,001 days—almost three years—in prison. Al-Hathloul had been championing women's rights since 2013. She lobbied especially for the right to drive, as well as for an end to male guardianship laws in the Saudi kingdom. While women were granted the right to drive in 2017, advocates for the change were detained by authorities weeks before it took effect.