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Holiday drive
offers hope to gay advocate at risk

Holiday drive
offers hope to gay advocate at risk

Amnesty International is encouraging people to send a message of solidarity to William Hernandez--a gay activist in El Salvador who has received death threats apparently intended to deter him from campaigning--as Amnesty launches its annual Greeting Cards Campaign.

Hernandez is the director of Asociacion Entre Amigos (Between Friends Association), and he and other members of the group have received death threats.

It's believed these threats are attempts to prevent Hernandez and his colleagues from providing sex education to LGBT people and to discourage them from speaking out against human rights violations.

"The conditions under which William Hernandez and his colleagues carry out their work in El Salvador are far from ideal," said Mike Blakemore, Amnesty International's media director. "William's been threatened at gunpoint, and over the last five years the organization's office has been raided seven times. In spite of the organization reporting these raids, investigations have been superficial, and no one has been brought to justice.

"Sending a card is a simple yet effective way of offering a great sense of hope and solidarity to William and his colleagues, and it also sends a message to the authorities in El Salvador that people around the world care about the staff at this organization," Blakemore added.

According to the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission, an anonymous male made death threats over the telephone during three calls received by Entre Amigos between morning and late evening.

In one call, the person said that he wanted to speak to Hernandez and that he already knew how to reach the Entre Amigos office in order to kill him. The caller also left an accurate physical description of Hernandez.

In a later call that day, the same individual warned, "Tell that son of a bitch not to leave tonight." The threats were aimed not only at Hernandez but at his two daughters and his father--whose whereabouts the anonymous caller seemed to know in ominous detail.

Amnesty's Greeting Cards Campaign--which encourages people to send messages of hope and solidarity to people around the world facing persecution, torture, and other human rights abuses--is expected to generate thousands of messages for William and the other 25 cases featured this year.

Kelly McAllister, a transgender woman featured in last year's campaign, received thousands of appeals from people around the world, succeeding in putting the issue of police brutality against transgender people back on the map in Sacramento, Calif.

"During a season when so many of us are sending messages of goodwill to friends and family, we're asking people to add an extra card to their list and really make a difference for people under threat," Blakemore said.

For details on how to send a message of support to William Hernandez, go to www.amnesty.org.uk. (Stewart Who?, Gay.com/U.K.)

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