Beyond Alcatraz: @Large One Year Later
Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the opening of @Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz. Since the opening, Ai has regained his right to travel freely following the return of his passport by Chinese authorities on July 22, 2105. As well, we are happy to report that 26 prisoners of conscience who were featured in Ai’s iconic work Trace have officially been released from prison:
Dr. Tun Aung
Dieudonné Enoh Meyomesse
Runggye Adak (Adak is a Tibetan citizen)
Tashi Rabten (Rabten is a Tibetan citizen)
Gao Zhiseng (Zhiseng is currently under house arrest)
Iván Fernández Depestre
Bahman Ahmadi Amouee
Agnes Uwimana Nkusi
Nguyen Van Hai
Do Thi Minh Hanh
Lê Quốc Quân
Nguyen Xuan Nghia
Le Thanh Tung
Tibetan prisoner of conscience Tenzin Delek Rinpoche died while incarcerated in a Chinese prison in Changdu, Sichuan Province in July 2015. Tibetans demanded the return of his body to give him the traditional Buddhist final rites, a right provided by the Chinese constitution. However, Chinese prison authorities secretly cremated Rinpoche’s body. Shortly thereafter, while his relatives were carrying Rinpoche’s ashes to his hometown, Chinese police stopped them and forcibly seized his remains.
Indonesian prisoner of conscience Filep Karma was offered a release from prison in August 2015, but he has refused the offer of remission. He has called for an unconditional release, which includes the revocation of the charge of treason against him.
In a recent development, prisoner of conscience Shaker Aamer is scheduled to be released from the detention center at Guantanamo as early as October 25, 2015. A Saudi citizen and British legal resident, Aamer was originally suspected of leading anti-US forces in Afghanistan while being paid by Osama bin Laden. He has been detained and held without charge since 2001. He was cleared for release by the Bush administration in 2007 and by the Obama administration in 2009, but remains in detention in Guantánamo. He has testified that he has been subject to torture.
While we are very encouraged by the release of many prisoners of conscience, 141 individuals featured in Trace—as well as untold numbers of other people around the world—remain incarcerated for the peaceful expression of their beliefs.