Russian anti-fascist activist Azat Miftakhov was arrested by FSB agents Sept. 4, immediately upon his release from a prison colony in Omutninsk. Azat had been in detention since February 2019, convicted in connection with the breaking of a window at a Moscow protest outside an office of the ruling United Russia party. At that time of that arrest Miftakhov was a mathematics graduate student at Moscow State University. Miftakhov endured torture, threats, and other mistreatment at the hands of authorities while imprisoned. After a trial marked by widespread judicial abuses and the use of "secret witnesses," in January 2021 he was convicted of "hooliganism" and sentenced to five years in prison. He was released on parole two days after an International Day for the Liberation of Azat Miftakhov was held in cities around the world. But just as he exited the prison colony to meet his family, he was taken into custody again—this time on charges of "publicly justifying terrorism."
Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen met Sept. 4 with the crown prince of Bahrain, Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, at Gudaibiya Palace in the capital Manama, to discuss boosting trade and diplomatic ties, which were first established in 2020 as part of the so-called Abraham Accords. Cohen said he hoped this would be a precedent for "normalization" of Israel's relations with other Arab states. (ToI, Al Jazeera) Tellingly, the meeting came as Israel and Bahrain are each facing hunger strikes in their prisons, with political detainees protesting harsh conditions and restrictions on their basic rights.
The Russian Ministry of Justice on Sept. 1 designated Dmitry Muratov, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning internationally esteemed journalist, as a "foreign agent." This classification was justified on the grounds that Muratov "used foreign platforms to disseminate opinions aimed at forming a negative attitude towards the foreign and domestic policy of the Russian Federation." The label, reminiscent of the "enemy of the people" designation of the Soviet era, imposes harsh constraints on activities and requires sources of funding to be disclosed. The 2015 law has been widely used by the Kremlin to silence critics.
Amnesty International on Aug. 24 called for the application of "universal jurisdiction" against members of the Taliban accused of crimes under international law. Invocation of this doctrine would give any country the power to prosecute Taliban members for such violations. The statement came two days after a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) which found that Taliban de facto authorities have been committing extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests, torture and other forms of maltreatment against former members of Afghanistan's government and security forces. The report said that UNAMA has recorded at least 218 such extrajudicial killings in less than two years, from August 2021 to June 2023. Amnesty stated: "The new UNAMA report demonstrates an unending pattern of extrajudicial killings against members of the former government and security forces since Taliban's return to power in August 2021."
In the latest iteration of Russia's ongoing crackdown on dissent, a Moscow court on Aug. 18 ordered the detention of Grigory Melkonyants, co-chair of independent election monitoring organization Golos. The organization announced in a statement that the initial detention period was set at two months pending an investigation into charges that Melkonyants worked with an "undesirable" NGO—a crime in Russia, punishable with six years in prison.
The Moscow City Court ruled Aug. 18 to liquidate the Public Commission for the Preservation of the Heritage of Academician Sakharov, or the Sakharov Center, one of Russia's most respected human rights organizations, for "systematic, gross and irremediable violations of the law." The order was granted after an application from the Ministry of Justice.
An attorney representing imprisoned Egyptian political activist Ahmed Douma took to social media Aug. 20 to announce the activist's release, thanks to a presidential pardon. Douma had endured a decade of incarceration within Egyptian penitentiaries, and had five more years of his sentence to serve. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi apparently responded to repeated calls for his release by human rights organizations.
Seven high-profile democracy activists in Hong Kong had part of their sentences thrown out on appeal Aug. 14. They were convicted two years ago over a mass demonstration on Aug. 18, 2019 that drew an estimated 1.7 million people, in defiance of a ban on street protests. The Court of Appeal's judgement found that just because they were at the front of the procession didn't mean they had actually organized it. However, their convictions for taking part in the rally were upheld. Martin Lee, Margaret Ng and Albert Ho were given suspended sentences or credit for time served, and were released. But Jimmy Lai, Leung Kwok-hung, Cyd Ho and Lee Cheuk-yan remained in custody, as they also face charges under the National Security Law. (HKFP, PRI, The Independent)