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Unjust Detention: Five Cases and a Solidarity Fast

Today I am fasting. This simple act is my way of calling attention to those being unjustly detained around the world.

A detainee can be anyone from an Al-Qaeda hostage to an innocent inmate sitting on death row in America. The five cases I highlight (in no particular order) represent only the tip of a much larger iceberg. You can bring attention to other cases in the comments section.

1. I am taking part in a rolling fast being conducted in solidarity with American hikers Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, who have spent over 22 months in Iran's Evin prison. They still have not been tried on the baseless charges of espionage levied against them. They have resorted to hunger strikes in the hopes of seeing movement on their case. Earlier this month Shane and Josh called home for only the third time. The call confirmed that they are still resorting to hunger strikes in the hopes of seeing movement on their case. The most recent strike started after prison officials stopped delivering letters and lasted 17 days. To support Shane, Josh and their families visit Free the Hikers.

2. Nigerian Patrick Okoroafor was 14 when he was arrested and charged with robbery. His brother says police pulled out Patrick's teeth with pliers, hung him and beat him before they put him in prison. Two years later, in 1997, Patrick was sentenced to death for a crime he says he never committed. His sentence has since been commuted: first to life in prison, and most recently to 10 years behind bars. This new sentence started in 2009 and does not take into account the fourteen years that Patrick already served. Amnesty International has been following his case.

3. After being arrested at an anti-government demonstration, 13-year-old Hamza Al Khateeb was tortured and ultimately killed while in the custody of Syrian security forces. His body was returned in tatters: "His kneecaps had been smashed, his neck broken, his jaw shattered and his penis cut off." He was among the more than 8,000 men, women and children that the Syrian government has arbitrarily detained over the past two months. These growing numbers cannot be verified because journalists, human rights groups and even the UN have been denied access to the country.

4. Ai WeiWei is a prominent Chinese artist and activist. One of his most recognizable works, the Beijing National Stadium, was the centerpiece of the 2008 summer Olympics. In January, Ai Weiei had his studio destroyed by Chinese officials, and on April 3rd he was detained at the Beijing Airport. There is no official reason for his arrest, but possible causes include his increasingly provocative art and the Communist Party's desire to send a message to other dissidents. Ai Weiei remains in Chinese custody. To follow the campaign for his release visit Freeaiweiei.org.

5. In 2001, Afghani villagers sold 22 Chinese Uighurs to American forces, who then moved the prisoners to Guantanamo Bay. The government now acknowledges that they "pose no terror threat" and should be released. Most of the Uighurs had to be relocated, as they face the risk of torture back in China. The five that remain at 'gitmo' have been trying to seek political asylum in the US, but on April 18th the Supreme Court refused to hear their appeal. They must now choose between staying in prison and being relocating to the pacific island of Palau, where they have no ties.

You can follow any of links in this article to learn more and take action. Help combat the practice of unjust detention around the globe.

UPDATED: Chronology of Shane and Josh's hunger strike slightly different than first posted.

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