Russia: Nuclear scientist released in "spy swap"

Dr Igor Sutyagin (pictured), a Russian nuclear scientist and former head of division at the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow, was released from prison on 9 July.

According to reports from the BBC , Sutyagin has been delivered to Britain as one of a number of individuals convicted of spying in Russia who are being exchanged with 10 to 11 individuals alleged by the US to be Russian spies.

Sutyagin was detained by the Russian Federal Security Service in October 1999, charged with espionage, and sentenced to 15 years in a strict-regime penal colony, in a case that human rights advocates believe to be politically motivated and part of a widespread clampdown on freedom of expression in Russia.

Sutyagin was accused of passing classified information to a London-based research firm for whom he was conducting freelance analysis of civilian-military relations in Russia.

Sutyagin has always claimed that he used only public sources of information and, as a civilian researcher, had no access to classified sources.

His case was identified as that of a political prisoner by both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, who also claimed that Sutyagins trial did not meet international standards.

Israel: Academics fight for freedom to dissent

Over 500 Israeli academics, including two former education ministers, have signed a protest petition against new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise Israeli academics who openly support an academic boycott of Israeli institutions, the Guardian reported on 11 July.

The petition was sparked by recent comments by Israel's education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government will take action against boycott supporters.

A new bill being heard by the Israeli parliament would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters, including banning foreign nationals who encourage or support boycotts from entering Israel for 10 years.

Within the academic sector, this would affect a small number of academics who have spoken out in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, including Neve Gordon, author of Israel's Occupation.

Although the majority of signatories to the petition do not support an academic boycott, all have identified the new law as an attempt to stifle free speech. The petition states: "We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on - freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system."

India: Student killed over competitive recruitment practices

An Indian student in Chennai has been killed for his involvement in recruiting students from northern states for private colleges, for a commission, The Times of India reported on 6 July.

Nirbhaz Kumar Singh (19), a third year student of MGR University, Maduravoyal, was attacked by a rival eight-member gang allegedly attending another engineering college. Two other students from MGR University who were accompanying him escaped with minor injuries.

It has been claimed that private universities in Chennai are using senior students as admissions brokers. Trouble erupted when a candidate from Singhs state was lured to join a rival university.

This is the second instance where two groups of students have clashed over seat brokerage. Previously, a student was kidnapped by a rival gang who feared he could become a competitor in the commission business.

The universities in question have refused to comment on this practice.

Cuba: Academic faces expulsion from Communist party

The Cuban communist party has expelled prominent intellectual Esteban Morales for publishing an article highlighting corruption among high-ranking officials, reported the Guardian on 2 July.

Esteban Morales is Professor of Economics and Political Science and Honorary Director of the Centre for American Studies at the University of Havana.

In April 2010, an article was published on the state-run website of the National Artists and Writers Union of Cuba, in which he stated that some Cuban officials were preparing to divide the spoils in case of disintegration of Cuba's political system. According to Morales, "it has become evident that there are people in government and state positions who are preparing a financial assault for when the revolution falls".

The Playa Municipal branch of the party has stripped Morales of his membership and he has allegedly disappeared from public view, despite his usual frequent appearances on state television. Lower ranking members of the branch have apparently objected to his expulsion and Morales is appealing.

The article was removed after foreign media in Havana reported on it, but it has since been copied and circulated among intellectuals and analysts. Morales has posted an article on a political website stating that the response to his work would demonstrate to the world the close-minded nature of the party leadership.

Azerbaijan: Student journalist loses court appeal against expulsion

An Azerbaijani student journalist who claims he was expelled from the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy because of an article he released on bribery and financial fraud, has lost his court appeal, IFEX reported on 8 July 2010.

Elmin Badalov, a journalist and fourth year student at the Oil Mechanics Faculty of the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy, published an article in November 2009 on Poligon Information Agency entitled "Reportage from the Azerbaijan State Oil Academy", which focused on bribery and financial fraud cases at the academy.

On 19 January 2010, he was dismissed from the Academy because of failing grades. But Badalov claims he was discriminated against by the university management because of the critical nature of his article, and that his failure was due to pressure tactics from management.

He then filed a lawsuit against the academy and specifically against the Rector Siyavush Garayev. He states that he was subjected to pressure tactics for freely expressing his thoughts.

His case was rejected and the judge considered the decision to be unfounded.

IFEX considers Badalovs explusion and the court's decision to constitute harassment, as the decision contradicts Article 47 (everyone has the right to freedom of expression and speech) of the Constitution of the Republic of Azerbaijan and Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Turkey: Government slammed for detention of Iranian student activist

Turkey has been condemned by the European Court of Human Rights for the illegal detention of a refugee student activist from Iran, the Hurriyet reported on 14 July.

The individual, an active communist and student activist in Iran, fled the country after many fellow students were imprisoned in 2007. After entering Turkey illegally in 2008, he was arrested by the Turkish authorities.

Despite being awarded refugee status in March 2009 by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees, and a relocation agreement being agreed with Sweden, the Turkish authorities chose to detain the student for another 12 months, until February 2010. His legal representation was also banned from entering the detention centre to visit him to discuss his case.

The European Court of Human Rights condemned Turkey for unlawful detention and for denying the individual access to his lawyer. A plan to deport him to Iran was overruled in July 2008 by the European Court.

* Roisin Joyce is Deputy Director of the Network for Education and Academic Rights, NEAR.