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TOPIC: prison


What's Changed, What Hasn't: A Turkish Political Prisoner Walks Free After 31 Years

Mehmet Aytunç Altay was finally released last month after being arrested in Istanbul for his political activity in 1993. The world around has changed, even if his convictions stand firm.

ISTANBUL — Mehmet Aytunç Altay spent 31 years of his life behind bars.

While he was behind bars, governments came and went; Turkey changed, as did the world. Technological advances like smartphones and social media changed the way we live our daily lives. Mob bosses, murderers and rapists were released from prison during multiple rounds of pardons during that time.

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A Birthday Message For My Mother, An Innocent 69-Year-Old Held In Iranian Prison

For the third year in a row, Nahid Taghavi, a retired architect and German citizen, is in Tehran's brutal Evin Prison, where she has been mistreated after being wrongly convicted on trumped up charges as the Iranian regime exploits her foreign citizenship for money and influence.


COLOGNE — My mother, a German architect, is being held hostage by Iran. Monday is her birthday, and she will spend it in prison.

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A Hostel Hides Spain's Dark Past: Franco's LGBTQ Prison Colony

The Canary island of Fuerteventura is a popular seaside tourist destination, but further inland are the remains of Spain's dark past of LGBTQ+ persecution.

TEFÍA — The Tefía Penitentiary Agricultural Colony on the island of Fuerteventura, in Spain's Canary Islands, was used to imprison homosexuals and others accused by the Vagrancy and Loitering Law. The law — and the accompanying labor camps like Tefía — were used by Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to "rehabilitate" social outcasts.

The facilities are in perfect condition, and the area is well-maintained as it now serves as a hostel. New buildings have been constructed around it, but the main one remains the same.

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"This solemn and beloved isolated land of Fuerteventura is a desert," wrote Miguel de Unamuno during his exile on the island in 1924. He was sent there by Primo de Rivera due to his continuous attacks on him and the king. Almost a century later, the landscape depicted by the writer through his words remains unchanged.

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Navalny To Khodorkovsky, The Painful Limits Of Russia's Opposition

The ongoing show trial of prominent Putin critic Alexei Navalny continues. Yet even in the face of totalitarianism, Russia's opposition cannot present a united front.


PARIS — It was not easy to be an opponent of Vladimir Putin before the invasion of Ukraine, but it has certainly become next to impossible since Feb. 24, 2022. That also counts when you're in prison, as Alexei Navalny is.

Since his voluntary return to Russia after the attempted Novitchok poisoning in 2020, Navalny has already been sentenced twice to a total of twelve years in prison. Now he is back facing a parody of justice: this time, he faces a further 30 years in prison. That's a guarantee that he'll stay behind bars as long as Vladimir Putin is in the Kremlin.

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It's a parody of justice because his trial, which opened on Monday in his prison, the IK-6 penal colony at Melekhovo, 200 km from Moscow, is being held behind closed doors. The lack of transparency is unjustified by the charge brought against him: "extremism".

But the substance of the case is of little importance: what counts is keeping him in prison for as long as possible, in conditions that worry those closest to him. He is losing weight and has suffered serious stomach pains, but he has kept his biting wit and irony.

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Carmen Domingo

How Spain’s "Only Yes Means Yes" Law Has Freed Sexual Assault Convicts From Prison

Spain's groundbreaking "only yes means yes" law on consent was supposed to crack down on sexual abusers. But early signs say the real-life effect may be just the opposite. Critical voices of its effects keep appearing.


MADRID — In May 2022, Spanish lawmakers introduced what was touted as a revolutionary feminist bill aimed at toughening legislation around sexual abuse. The law was conceived by the Ministry of Equality following the trial in an infamous 2016 gang rape case of an 18-year-old during the running-of-the-bulls in Pamplona. A video had shown the victim was silent and passive, which was interpreted by judges as proof of her consent.

Dubbed the "Only Yes Means Yes" law, the new legislation aims to ensure that a case like this would never come to be again. Now, a sexual act where no explicit consent is given (even without violence or threat) would be classified as rape. Spain would be joining 12 other European countries who have changed their legal definition of rape as sex without clear consent.

It was a watershed in criminal justice and society at large, aiming to completely redefine acts of sexual abuse and give ultimate power to the victim to acknowledge her trauma and pursue legal action .

But the new law came with a caveat: some of those already convicted of sexual assault and abuse would see an automatic reduction in their prison sentences because the new law created a wider range for sentencing. And indeed, more than a year since the new law took effect, studies indicate that a troubling number of rapists and other sexual offenders have been released from jail.

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Iranian Regime Facing "Unprecedented" Street Attacks Against Clerics

A spate of recent attacks in Iran on clerics, seminarians and even state agents are prompting some to self-defense classes, while others are holing up inside.

Iran's mullahs, or the Shia jurists usually seen in flowing robes and turban, may be in charge of Iran, but they're increasingly hesitant to tread its streets.

Their fears follow a recent spate of attacks on regime supporters including a gun killing, possibly related to public anger with the Islamic regime and its violent suppression of mass protests late in 2022.

On May 1, the judiciary chief Gholam Hussein Mohseni-Ejei urged a swift and firm response, while another cleric, former intelligence minister Ali Fallahian, advised those mullahs preaching at Friday congregational prayers to take self-defense classes.

The incidents include the shooting death on April 26 of a senior cleric, Abbas Ali Suleimani, in a bank in the northern city of Babolsar, one of several attempts to run over clerics or seminarians, a Basiji militiaman killed in Sabzevar in north-eastern Iran and a police commander shot dead in Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchestan, on April 30. On May 6, another mullah was reported as stabbed and injured in the district of Ahmadabad in the central Markazi province.

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This Happened

This Happened — May 10: Mandela Sworn In

Nelson Mandela was sworn into the presidency at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa on this day in 1994.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War
Pierre Haski

A 25-Year Sentence Seals Putin's Switch From Authoritarianism To Totalitarianism

Vladimir Kara-Murza was handed the heaviest prison sentence since the beginning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Putin is making an example of the rare few who dare to speak out against him, evoking the reign of Joseph Stalin.


Facing his judges, Vladimir Kara-Murza compared his trial to those of the Stalinist era. He knows what he is talking about: during Stalin's reign, his two great-grandfathers were executed and his grandfather was sent to the Gulag. In turn, Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison yesterday for his opposition to the war in Ukraine.

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This is the heaviest sentence handed down since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Any opposition to the war is severely punished, but the Russian authorities clearly wanted to make an example of Kara-Murza by significantly raising the cost of dissent. The justice system has piled on by accusing him of "subversion.”

Since Feb. 24, 2022, Vladimir Putin has transformed the authoritarianism of his regime into totalitarianism: there is no more space for freedom of the press, no more right to demonstrate, no independent justice. Even children have to adhere to warrior patriotism: in early March, 13-year-old Maria was sent to an orphanage for a pacifist drawing, and her father in prison.

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Mariateresa Fichele

On The Couch And On The Lam

Our Dottoré looks back on an entertaining session with a witty runaway convict.

- Do you have a job?

- No. I am incarcerated.

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In The News
Anna Akage

Poland’s Ruling Party Seeks Tough New Blasphemy Law, Jail For Mocking Church

Poland’s legislature is in the process of passing new “blasphemy” restrictions that would impose jail sentences for denigrating the Catholic Church, Warsaw-based daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported Monday.

Parliament’s lower house has approved an amendment that—if passed into law—would impose “a fine, a penalty of restriction of liberty, or imprisonment up to two years,” on anyone who “publicly lies or makes fun of the Church or other religious association with official legal standing, or dogmas or rites.”

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Firoozeh Nordstrom

Iran Protests, Dissent In The Ranks: Interview With A Mole Inside The Revolutionary Guard

A member of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards tells Kayhan-London that while they must stay hidden, "many" policemen, soldiers and officials sympathize with the mass protests against the Islamist regime. He also shares information about Iran's role in the Ukraine war.

Iran's Revolutionary Guards are the de facto military and economic bedrock of the Islamic regime, also acting as its ideological police tasked with crushing dissent at home and abroad.

Its generals occupy many key civil and ministerial positions, and are often the ones issuing the most brutal threats against political opponents and disgruntled Iranians. But in the current moment of political upheaval, an unknown and important factor is the view of the Guards' rank-and-file members. Are they equally zealous in defending the regime and keen to crush the nationwide uprising that erupted in mid-September, after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in Tehran police custody?

Ali is the name given here to a Revolutionary guardsman who has told Kayhan-London that he and his family turned against the country's regime "some years back."

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In The News
Cameron Manley and Emma Albright

Zelensky Blasts Schroeder, Lobbies Xi In New Push To Maximize Support

In the past 24 hours, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has focused his diplomatic efforts on Germany and China, two nations that remain key to the balance of power in the war in Ukraine. In different ways the two powerhouse countries have been less than clear where they stand in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

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In what was a clear reference to former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s recent visit to Russia, Zelensky said in his nightly address on Wednesday that “it is simply disgusting when former leaders of powerful states with European values work for Russia, which is fighting against these values.”

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