Top names litter Amnesty's comedy line-up for Festival

AWARD-WINNING comedians Simon Amstell and Russell Howard are among a list of stars set to perform at events organised by Amnesty International as part of this summer's Edinburgh Festival.

The leading human rights group today announced that it would bring another packed programme of events to the Capital's festival, including its Stand Up For Freedom nights at the Assembly Rooms, which will take place at midnight on 12 and 19 August.

The popular comedy gig will feature Amstell and Howard, Andrew Maxwell and Kurt Braunohler and Kristen Schaal from Flight of the Conchords.

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Comedians Phil Nicholl, Sarah Millican, John Bishop, Rob Rouse, and the double act Colin and Fergus will also perform, with more names still to be announced.

Amnesty's series of shows will focus on issues such as the right to freedom of expression around the world, with the organisation campaigning for the release of Dr Binayak Sen – one of India's best-known public health specialists and human rights activists – at the festival.

The group believes that the charges against the paediatrician were in response to his activism, after he spoke out on behalf of the poor.

Amnesty International Scotland programme director John Watson said: "The Edinburgh Festival is a celebration of freedom of expression, so it's the ideal place for Amnesty to tell people about our work to protect free speech around the world.

"We want people to join with us and take action for Dr Binayak Sen, who faces a lifetime behind bars in India just for speaking out on behalf of the poor and marginalised."

He added: "Even small actions can make a difference. If festival-goers believe that free speech is important, they can show their support just by posing with an Amnesty placard or signing their name on our appeal for Dr Binayak Sen."

Amnesty will also have its biggest presence yet at Edinburgh's Book Festival on 27 August.

Freedom, a new book of short stories by renowned writers, based on the articles of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will be launched, with readings from authors Marina Lewycka and Xiaolu Guo.

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This year's "Imprisoned Writers Series" will feature well-known authors including Iain Banks and Ian Rankin, who will read from the work of imprisoned writers. And acclaimed rap artist Emmanuel Jal, once a Sudanese child soldier, will give this year's Amnesty lecture.

The Amnesty International Freedom of Expression Award will be presented to an outstanding Fringe play that carries a human rights message.

The 2007 winner, The Container, plays at the Young Vic in London from 15 to 30 July, in association with Amnesty.

The organisation said activists would also take to the streets of the Capital with Amnesty's "Protect the Human" placards at the Festival.

• Read Jonathan Melville's film festival blog