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Another birthday in prison for rights activist Hu Jia

(RSF/IFEX) - Leading human rights activist Hu Jia celebrated his 36th birthday in his cell in the Beijing municipal prison on 25 July 2009. His wife, Zeng Jinyan, and their 18-month-old daughter were able to visit him on 21 July. "He is even thinner, but his morale is high," Zeng said after the visit. A poem she posted on her blog about her monthly visit begins: "Each day I add a minute. Each month we see each other for half an hour."

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for Hu Jia's release. "Hu has already spent 20 months in prison in very trying conditions," the press freedom organisation said. "It is shocking to see how a man whose only crime was to write articles and give interviews is being kept in prison by certain stubborn officials. The government should demonstrate a desire to improve respect for free expression by freeing Hu and his colleagues, Liu Xiaobo and Huang Qi."

Arrested on 27 December 2007 on a charge of "inciting subversion of state authority," Hu was tried on 18 March 2008 before a Beijing intermediate court for posting information about matters of state on websites based abroad. The court sentenced him on 3 April 2008 to three and a half years in prison.

Hu suffers from a liver ailment for which he is not getting the medicine he needs.

He gets strong moral support from his wife Zeng, who addressed the European Parliament by video during the December 2008 ceremony in which the Parliament awarded Hu the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought: . She is still being kept under close surveillance at her Beijing apartment.

On 24 June, Green Party members of the Paris city council and Reporters Without Borders hung a photo of Hu Jia, an honorary citizen of Paris, outside the city hall.

The Sakharov Network of former Sakharov Prize laureates has meanwhile asked the European Parliament to show strong support for Hu, who is one of the two laureates currently in prison. The other is Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Sign the petition for Hu's release:

A humanitarian activist since the start of the 1990s, Hu was involved not only in HIV prevention and helping HIV/AIDS sufferers, but also in protecting the environment and defending prisoners of conscience. He used the Internet, especially his blog and videos, to expose the regime's repression of those who defend human rights.

He was arrested and held incommunicado for 40 days in the spring of 2006 and, on his release, he was placed under house arrest. Police stationed around the couple's apartment building prevented him from going out while his wife, Zeng, was followed whenever she left the apartment.

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