- Title: Ai Weiwei and Amnesty join forces to help Snowden and others
- Date: 1st December 2016
- Summary: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK (DECEMBER 1, 2016) (REUTERS) (MUTE) AMNESTY CAMPAIGN POSTER FEATURING AI WEIWEI LEGO ARTWORK PORTRAIT OF ANNIE ALFRED
- Embargoed: 16th December 2016 20:42
- Keywords: Amnesty Write for Rights campaign Edward Snowden Ai Weiwei President Obama letter writing
- Location: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / MOSCOW, RUSSIA / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION, MALAWI / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- City: LONDON, ENGLAND, UK / MOSCOW, RUSSIA / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATION, MALAWI / UNIDENTIFIED LOCATIONS
- Country: United Kingdom
- Reuters ID: LVA0045B6VOLJ
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Chinese dissident artist, Ai Weiwei, has joined forces with Amnesty International for their annual "Write for Rights' campaign, launched on Friday (December 2).
He's created portraits out of Lego of eleven rights campaigners, including American whistleblower Edward Snowden, who feature in Amnesty's global letter-writing drive.
"For Edward Snowden we are asking people to write to Barack Obama in the final days of his presidency, because Barack Obama has a unique opportunity to grant Edward a pardon that will enable him to return to his country as a free man," said Amnesty's May Carolan.
People are being asked to inundate authorities with letters highlighting the plight of the eleven chosen people who, along with Snowden, include a jailed Egyptian photojournalist and a teenager from Azerbaijan tortured for graffitiing a statue.
Snowden was granted asylum in Russia because he is wanted in America for lifting the lid on the U.S. government's massive surveillance programmes.
"Even though it has cost me a lot, I have dedicated my life to America. And although I miss my home, I am proud of the choices I have made," he told Amnesty.
"The ultimate question that we need to answer is not 'Do you like me?' 'Am I a good guy or a bad guy?' It's 'Would you rather not know the truth? Would you rather be in the dark?'" he added.
'Write for Rights' also asks people to write letters of support to those jailed and harassed for their activities.
Snowden has himself written to Annie Alfred, an Albino girl in Malawi hunted for body parts by those who believe she has magical powers.
Last year people taking part in the campaign sent more than 3.7 million letters, emails, texts, faxes and tweets, making it the world's biggest human rights campaign, Amnesty said.
"Our main message is definitely that 'You are powerful'. That you shouldn't think 'What difference does my measly letter make?' Your letters make all the difference. We know that it gives people hope in their darkest moments when they are in prison or when they are suffering from various different forms of abuse,". And we also know that people are released from prison, people get access to medical care," said Carolan.
Last year's campaign contributed to victories in three of the featured cases, including the release on bail of two youth activists who had been facing the death penalty in the Democratic Republic of Congo; the release of a woman who'd spent four years in jail in Mexico and charges dropped in Myanmar against a student who helped organise largely peaceful protests.
"Every year we see increasing successes and that is partly because every year we get more and more people writing letters. So the more people take part, the more change there is and it is super easy," said Carolan.
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