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Charity affirms importance of cards for prisoners

12 December 2014

by a staff reporter


"Significant damage": a 2006 photograph reviewed by a US Department of Defense official show US guards walking into Camp Delta military-run prison, on the Guantanamo Bay US naval base, Cuba. A report released by the Senate intelligence committee on Tuesday concluded that the CIA repeatedly misled the US administration and public over the extent of the agency's use of torture during interrogation of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists, after the 9/11 attacks. The committee's head, Diane Feinstein, condemned use of torture as "a stain on our values and our history"

"Significant damage": a 2006 photograph reviewed by a US Department of Defense official show US guards walking into Camp Delta military-run prison, ...

AN ANNUAL campaign to send out thousands of Christmas cards to persecuted Christians, human-rights campaigners, and victims of torture in prisons around the world is under way, and is "more important than ever", the organisation behind it says.

The charity Action by Christians Against Torture (ACAT) has been sending cards each Christmas for more than 30 years - most of the time never even knowing whether the card was received by the prisoner for whom it was intended.

Margaret Russell, who chairs ACAT, said that the charity spent a long time researching who was in need of support, and how to get the cards to them.

"Some of them we send cards to, Christmas after Christmas: they are familiar names, but others are new. We have noticed that more and more, in recent years, are going out to persecuted Christians in some Islamic countries.

"For some prisoners, we have to ask senders not to send a religious card, as we don't want to make the situation worse for them. Most of the time we hear nothing back, and we have no idea if they have got through or not; but it feels more important than ever now to keep going.

"The cards show the prisoner that they aren't forgotten - and they show his or her jailers that, too. We have heard of one man who, when he was released, came to visit the person who had sent him cards each year, and showed him how each year, as a card arrived, his living conditions improved, little by little, until eventually he was freed.

"It's a real, tangible thing we can do in this country for someone else. It shows people who have been shut away, in many cases for years, that somebody, somewhere, cares."

Human-rights groups on the list for cards include the All Pakistan Minorities Alliance, which represents religious minorities in Pakistan, and the group Women of Zimbabwe Arise.

Prisoners on the list for cards include a British national in Guantanamo Bay, Shaker Aamer, who was detained in Afghanistan in 2002; a Christian teacher, Johan Teterissa, in prison in Indonesia after raising a nationalistic flag during a demonstration; a Muslim human-rights campaigner, Kya Hal Aung, in jail in Burma; and a Church of Iran pastor, Bahnam Irani, who has been in prison since 2011, and faces the death penalty for "spreading corruption on earth".

The Christmas greeting-card list for 2014 is available on the ACAT website. www.acatuk.org.uk

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