Political Prisoner, a person imprisoned or detained for political, rather than criminal, activity. In a sense, a person convicted of sedition or treason is a political prisoner, but the term generally refers to persons jailed for “offenses” that in democratic countries are considered rights—criticizing the government, for example. Political prisoners are common under totalitarian regimes where secret police are employed to silence all opposition to the government. A person who dares to criticize or oppose—even privately—is subject to conviction and imprisonment (or, more likely, to detention without trial) as an “enemy of the state” or an “enemy of the people.”

Amnesty International

is an organization that seeks to aid persons imprisoned for their religious and political beliefs. It was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977 for its efforts. The group was founded in 1961 and has about 500,000 members. Headquarters are in London.