Save Hakeem al-Araibi: Daily Brief

Plus: Chinese founder of human rights news website sent to jail; France arms sales enabling abuses in Egypt; expressing religious views risky in the Maldives; blasphemy-accused Asia Bibi finally free to leave Pakistan; a UN judge has resigned over political interference; UN investigates Jamal Khashoggi murder.

Jussie Smollett, star of television show 'Empire,' was attacked in Chicago in a possible a hate crime. Early this morning, two assailants allegedly poured an unknown chemical substance on Smollett, tied a rope around his neck, and yelled homophobic and racial slurs at him. We have documented a rise in hate crimes over the last two years, and this despicable attack is an unfortunate continuation of that trend.

Hakeem al-Araibi, a former Bahraini national footballer, is in grave danger of being deported back to Bahrain, where he faces imprisonment and torture. Al-Araibi has been detained in Thailand since last November. Today, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have started a digital campaign to save him. #SaveHakeem calls on Thai authorities to allow al-Araibi to return to Australia, where he has refugee status.

A Chinese court has sentenced the founder of a human rights news website, Liu Feiyue, to five years in prison for “inciting subversion of state power.” Authorities had repeatedly rejected Liu’s lawyers’ requests to meet him and went as far as disbarring one of them.

France has become Egypt’s main arms supplier. By delivering more than EUR 1.4 billion worth of military and security equipment in 2017 alone, including armored vehicles and surveillance and crowd control tools, the EU country is directly enabling abuses such as the violent dispersal by Egyptian security forces of peaceful sit-ins.

Extremist groups in the Maldives, some linked to politicians, have endorsed violent ultra-nationalist or Islamist ideology, threatening those who express more moderate religious views.

Pakistan’s supreme court has upheld the acquittal of Asia Bibi, a Christian woman whose blasphemy conviction was overturned in October. Bibi is likely to be flown out of the country within hours.

A senior judge has resigned from one of the UN’s international courts in The Hague citing “shocking” political interference from the White House and Turkey.

And a senior United Nations human rights official has arrived in Turkey to head an inquiry into the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi at Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul. It is the first UN-supported independent investigation into the Khashoggi affair.