Security officials in Bagdad announced today, that German curator Hella Mewis was released at 6:25 a.m. (03.25 UTC/GMT) in a security operation at Rusafa, eastern part of Baghdad. Iraqi authorities did not give any information about who was behind the kidnapping. No one was arrested during the operation.
Hella is presently under the protection of the German embassy in Baghdad. She is already the sixth foreigner to be abducted in the Iraqi capital this year and dozens of activists have been kidnapped in recent months.
Sources: Deutsche Welle, The Arab Weekly, Neue Züricher Zeitung (German)
The cultural manager and curator Hella Mewis has been active in German-Iraqi cultural exchange for many years. At the Berlin based network for cultural reconstruction in Iraq, she was involved in numerous initiatives and projects that were intended to enable the Iraqi cultural scene to join the international cultural exchange after decades of isolation through war and terror. Some of these could also be realized with the help of the ITI. Since 2012 she continued her work from Baghdad. She built up the cultural centre “Beit Tarkib” under the most difficult conditions and got support by the Goethe-Institut for festivals, concerts, readings, workshops and exhibitions.
Hella was, as usual, travelling by bicycle when she was kidnapped by armed men from two cars near the cultural centre in the evening of July 20. It is speculated that the perpetrators are close to the Hezbollah militia. The German Foreign Office has set up a crisis management team. Media and networks are following the case. #hellamewis, #freehella
Sources: AFP Germany (Video), Euronews, The Art Newspaper, Associated Press, New York Times, Neue Zuericher Zeitung (German), Sueddeutsche Zeitung (German)
On Friday, June 26, the Moscow judge gave Kirill Serebrennikov a suspended sentence to three years probation and a three-year ban on leading any state-backed cultural institution in Russia. However, the judge said that the defendants would be required to repay nearly 129 million rubles in compensation for the money allegedly embezzled. Co-defendants Yury Itin and Konstantin Malobrodsky were also found guilty of conspiring to mislead the culture ministry for “personal enrichment” and also sentenced to probation. The fourth defendant, Sofya Apfelbaum, was convicted of negligence.
Artists around the world expressed their solidarity, an online petition in Germany got 57.000 subscribers. The representative of the EU foreign service Peter Stano and Germany’s Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance Bärbel Kofler expressed their demand for a fair and transparent trial.
Sources: The Guradian, NY Times, German Federal Office, TASS
The case of the “Platform” Projekt at the Gogol Center’s “Seventh Studio” Kirill Serebrennikov has been going on for more than three years (see also our former posts at ACAR). On June 22 the judicial investigation has ended. The state prosecution considered proven guilty persons involved in the case of Serebrennikov, asks to plead Kirill Serebrennikov, Alexey Malobrodsky, Yury Itin and Sophia Apfelbaum and sentence them with following punishments: 6 years of imprisonment in a penal colony with a fine of 800 thousand rubles for Serebrennikov , 5 years for Malobrodsky and 4 years for Itin and Apfelbaum as well.
At the same time the prosecution corrects the amount of damage from 133 million 237 thousand rubles to 128 million 974 thousand rubles.
The court will pass a verdict in the coming days.
The Gogol Center has published Kirill Serebrennikov’s speech at the Meshchansky court on June 22nd: Platform Lessons
Sources: Russsian Legal Information Agency (RAPSI), Russia Today (RT), Gogol Center’s Facebook page
For their next thematic reports to the UN General Assembly or the Human Rights Council, the effects of the COVID19 crisis will be closely analysed. A questionnaire will assist the human rights experts to obtain information and elaborate comprehensive recommendations on the measures taken by national, federal and local governments to protect their population and ensure the enjoyment of human rights, including particular groups at risk of discrimination or social exclusion. It consists of a section with joint questions for all mandates, and specific questions for each mandate. The report on the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the exercise of cultural rights and on the role of culture and cultural rights in responding to the pandemic will be presented by Karima Bennoune in March 2021. The joint questionnaire can be consulted and downloaded online and should be sent electronically no later than 19 June 2020.
On Sunday, May 17, the historic National Theatre in Tirana has been demolished. Since 2018, artists and citizens have staged the longest active protest in the history of Albania to protect the theatre from demolition by the government (see ACAR posts 1, 2) The government moved in amidst the emergency situation and lockdown imposed due to the coronavirus crisis. Resisting citizens, sitting in front of the theatre, were removed and detained. The Albanian National Theater is officially part of Europa Nostra’s 7 Most Endangered European Heritage Sites list for 2020.
Albania’s President Ilir Meta has called the demolition of the National Theatre by his own government “a constitutional, legal and moral crime that cannot be granted amnesty.”, done by the Mafia. The decision to demolish Albania’s National Theatre was approved in secret and was not on the agenda for the meeting of the Tirana Municipal Council.
Sources: exit news 1, 2, 3, 4; Europa Nostra, video