Brian Conley and co heading home

Following the detention of Brian Conley, founder of Alive in Baghdad, and some of his colleagues on August 21st in Beijing, news emerged today that he and his companions have been released and are expected to arrive in los Angeles on Monday morning.

An email from Conley’s wife Eowyn reads:

We just got word that Brian and friends are on a plane to Los Angeles, arriving Monday morning. He was released with 7 other US citizen detainees: Jeff Goldin, Tom Grant, Mike Liss, James Powderly, Jeff Rae, John Watterberg and Jeremy Wells.

They have been released 6 days early, largely (we believe) because of political pressure and media attention that forced the US Embassy to take action.

The fate of the other 2 international detainees, Florian Norbu Gyanatshang a Tibetan with German citizenship, and Mandie McKeown from Britain, is not clear. Please feel free to call their respective embassies and urge their immediate release. For more info on phone numbers and other action steps, see the Free Tibet 2008 website.

There are other important steps we can take to make sure that their detention gets the international attention it deserves and that the underlying cause — freedom for the people of Tibet — is advanced. We can keep putting pressure on media to tell the real story of the Olympics in China. We can continue to raise awareness about the oppression and violence in Tibet. We can work to support independent media, so we actually get to hear these stories.

Welcome home Brian. Alive in Baghdad this week is expected to feature a short section on his detention.

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Alive In Baghdad founder detained in China

Brian Conley, who runs the award-winning video blog Alive in Baghdad, has been detained in Beijing whilst documenting pro-Tibet protests in the city running alongside the Olypmics.

Conley has been of incredible help to MexicoReporter.com, helping me with video editing and filming tips during the early days, and also helped the Frontline Club promote the Frontline Club live video channel. Conley has “dedicated his life to helping oppressed people communicate their struggles to the world. Since 2004 he has worked on the video blog Alive in Baghdad which produces and distributes weekly video segments about daily life in Iraq and the impact of the war,” says his wife Eowy.

According to an email from Eowyn – who is 31 weeks pregnant with their first child – Conley was arrested by Chinese authorities for this work, along with 5 others working with Students for a Free Tibet, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

As of about 8 pm Eastern Standard Time on Thursday, August 21 Brian and 5 others had been detained for approximately 77 hours, with no communication from them and minimal direct information from the Chinese authorities.

Earlier on Thursday, according to the Agency France Press the Beijing police disclosed that “Thomas” and 5 other unnamed activists had been sentenced to 10 days administrative detention for “upsetting public order.” We believe that the 6 detainees are Brian Conley, Jeff Rae (who also works with Alive in Baghdad), James Powderly, Jeff Goldin, Michael Liss, and Tom Grant.

After 72 hours of detention, foreign governments are expected to inform local embassies of the detention of any foreign nationals. The US Embassy has been confirmed the names of the 6 detainees with the Chinese authorities. The Embassy has also been in touch with Eowyn and assured her that they are working diligently to gain access to Brian and the other detainees.

For more information about the detention of Brian Conley and 5 others in Beijing, please see www.freetibet2008.org . Please consider donating money to Students for a Free Tibet to support their work. To get regular updates about Brian’s situation or to arrange an interview with me (Eowyn Rieke, Brian’s wife), please email brian.conley.update@gmail.com.

Mexico wins its first gold medal in Beijing

Guillermo Pérez is to take home the first gold medal for Mexico from the Olympics in Beijing this year, after winning a four-round taekwondo match against Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican Republic.

“Perez won a decision over Dominica’s Yulis Gabriel Mercedes by scoring early. Mercedes was unable to come back until just seconds before the bell, when he connected with a back kick.

“The two went into overtime, but neither scored. The judges declared Perez the winner,” writes the Associated Press.

The win for Pérez, who according to the Mexico City newspaper El Universal is inspired by martial arts film-star Bruce Lee, is prompting celebrations across Mexico, which until today has had a rather lackluster performance at the Olympics. Pérez is the first Mexican man to win gold at an Olympics since 1984.

TV hosts on Televisa’s morning show Wednesday showered themselves in confetti and waved the Mexican flag in jubilation over the win for Pérez, who is from the state of Michoacan, as is Mexican President Felipe Calderon.

— Deborah Bonello in Mexico City

Photo: Guillermo Pérez celebrates victory in the 58-kilogram taekwondo event in Beijing. Credit: Marcelo Sayao / EFE

This post was written for La Plaza.