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Germany

Amnesty calls for release of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei

Amnesty International in Germany has demanded that Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is immediately released by Chinese authorities. The call follows a disputed report that Angela Merkel has issued a personal plea to Beijing.

Amnesty International campaigners outside Brandenburg Gate

Campaigners worldwide are calling for Ai Weiwei's release

Amnesty International activists gathered in Berlin on Saturday to protest against the detention of Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

The demonstration took place after it emerged that German Chancellor Angela Merkel had written a personal plea to the Chinese government calling for Ai's release.

Der Spiegel news magazine reported Merkel had expressed her concern for the artist in a message to Beijing last week.

A spokesperson for the Chancellery on Saturday disputed the Spiegel report that Merkel made a personal appeal to the Chinese government for Ai's release.

"The chancellor's position on Ai Weiwei's detention is clear and established," the spokesman told journalists. "But other aspects of the Spiegel report are unfounded."

The spokesperson did not provide any additional details on which parts of the report were under dispute.

Saturday's vigil, held at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate, was attended by around a dozen Amnesty International activists.

Ai Weiwei

Ai was taken by authorities in Beijing on April 3

"We want it to be made public that many people in Germany are not happy with Chinese politics," said Martin Reimer of Amnesty International.

Political dimension

The president of Berlin's Academy of Arts, Klaus Staeck, also attended the protest, saying that the academy would meet with politicians and art foundation heads on April 26 to discuss the Chinese artist's detention.

He added that Amnesty International's involvement proved that the case had a strong political dimension.

It's been reported that German parliament's human rights commission has also appealed to Chinese President Hu Jintao asserting that compromises cannot be made when it comes to freedom of expression.

Ai, who was active in the human rights movement in China, was taken into police custody in at Beijing's main airport on April 3 for apparent economic crimes.

Nothing has been heard from the artist since, but the Chinese government asserts that his detention had nothing to do with human rights or freedom of speech.

Artists around the world are expected to campaign for his release on Sunday.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (dpa, Reuters)

Editor: Sean Sinico

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