Durbin Calls for the Release of Political Prisoners Languishing in Jails Around the World
Durbin: Let me remind Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu Al-Khair, Senator Leila DeLima, Maria Ressa, and Ahmed Mansoor, you are not forgotten & we will continue to advocate for your freedom
WASHINGTON – In a speech on the Senate floor, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) today shared the stories of political prisoners languishing in jails around the world for nothing more than advocating for human rights and political freedoms, and called for their immediate release. Durbin noted that these brave souls – journalists, activists, opposition politicians – are often cruelly led to believe they or their efforts to push for freedoms are forgotten, which Durbin wanted to ensure is not the case.
“America’s strength not only comes from its military and economy, but also from the power of its ideals. I can tell you from the former political prisoners who have come to visit me over the years that the support of this body and this Congress and the American people, that what we may just take for granted as another speech on the floor of the Senate, can make a difference. They come to learn that someone actually mentioned their name on the floor of the United States Senate in Washington, D.C.,” Durbin said. “It sustains them. It encourages them. It gives them hope. And it puts pressure on the governments that jail them to justify and rationalize the cruel treatment. Let me remind Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu Al-Khair, Senator Leila DeLima, Maria Ressa, and Ahmed Mansoor, we have not forgotten you. We will continue to back you.”
Durbin specifically shared the story of four political prisoners – Raif Badawi, Waleed Abu al-Khair, Senator Leila DeLima, and Ahmed Mansoor. Badawi was arrested in Saudi Arabia in 2012 for his peaceful writings, charged with apostasy, and sentenced to ten years in prison and 1,000 lashes, at least 50 of which were carried out before an international uproar. He suffers poor health and hypertension and his condition has worsened during his nearly ten years of imprisonment. Badawi’s lawyer, Waleed Abu al-Khair, a leading human rights activist, was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 10 years in prison and a 15 year travel ban.
Filipina Senator Leila DeLima just passed her fourth year languishing in a jail in the Philippines. As a leading human rights advocate, she has criticized the repressive actions of President Rodrigo Duterte. Ahmed Mansoor also just passed his fourth anniversary in jail. He was arrested under the guise that his social media posts advocating for human rights threatened the social harmony of the United Arab Emirates. Since his troubling sentencing in 2017, he has endured solitary confinement and a cruel lack of contact with his family.
Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.
Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.
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